Every dish is tested for toxins, visitors are disinfected, canteens are closed to outsiders because of swine flu worries, and the number of people served at each meal is a state secret.
Welcome to China’s National Day Military Parade Village, where thousands of men and women – officials say they cannot reveal exactly how many – have been preparing to dazzle the world with their crisp steps and immaculate formations on October 1.
That day is the 60th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, when an increasingly confident Chinese government will show off the military prowess that has been growing in tandem with its economic might, with a parade through central Beijing, Reuters reports.
“It will demonstrate the positive image of China as a country seeking peaceful development, the military power of China’s army to safeguard national security and uphold world peace, and boost the self esteem and pride of the Chinese nation,” said Senior Colonel Guo Zhigang, deputy head of the training camp preparing the units that will march through Beijing.
Officials are taking no risks with their A-list performers, who have been locked away since May in the specially-built parade village beside an old runway on the outskirts of Beijing, where the elite group drills for eight hours a day, rain or shine.
“The mission to participate in the parade is a sacred mission, given by the party and the people,” Guo said, adding that many had given up comfortable jobs and good salaries for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Troops nearly ready for parade
The troops unusually tall for China with a minimum height of 180 cm (5 feet, 11 inches) for men, and 165 cm (5 feet, 5 inches) for women are almost ready for the parade after months of preparation. They have not been allowed off-base once.
“First, we trained individually, then in lines, before building up to full formation,” said aptly-named chief training officer Yuan Daqing, or “Great Celebration” Yuan.
“The moves must be very precise. No matter from which angle you look, there should always be uniformity, so that the formation looks like a steel panel.”
The men and women parading on October 1 dismiss suggestions that marching up and down, correcting the angles of their arms, legs and waist for eight hours a day in the summer sun might get tiring or repetitive. Officers, however, said some have had problems with heatstroke.
“The wishes in our hearts to sacrifice for our motherland enable us to endure the hardship,” said Gao Teng, a machine-gun toting soldier from Jiangxi province.
“The Chinese army has a tradition of enduring difficulties.”
The camp has laid on entertainment to keep the confined troops in good mental as well as physical shape, with movies, television and even a patriotic option for those who are fired up rather than tired out by their drills, said deputy commander Guo.
“Once a week we also have a national flag raising ceremony,” he told visiting journalists.
Pic: Chinese troops