Friday, October 02, 2009

Shagadelic, baby!

I'm continuing to gape in a droolingly embarrassing fashion at the incredible images coming out of China's anniversary party. The military parade is intriguing, as much for the costumery as anything. Here are the 1201st Women's Militia Battalion and Health Care Cooperative strutting their stuff down Tianenmen Square.I'm not sure what makes this so delightfully awful. Is it the pink little flirty, skirty "uniform"? The fact that the "girls" have a little teeny, weenie machine pistol instead of a big ol' AK-knockoff like the "boys"? Is it the Carnaby Street oh-so-very-Swinging-London white vinyl go-go boots?

Hard to say, but the commander of the parade troops is on record as saying that the parade was designed to drive home the transformation of the People's Liberation Army from a lumpish gang of armed peasants to a "high-tech, 21st-century" armed force. And I don't know about you, but NOTHING says "high-tech, 21st-century" to me like a pair of white vinyl go-go boots.


Ael said...

You people are *so* trapped by your cultural precepts.

Think about the target audience of the parade organizers. (Hint: think of power relationships)

Now, think of the mindset of those old, powerful, Mao suited people where they would welcome such a display. That uniform colour was *not* an accident.

Imagine the cultural flexibility required to go from the little red book to pink mini skirts. And the west just snickers at the *go-go boots*!

As Felicity says "Move over, Rover. This chick is taking over!

Linda Dove said...

I had those boots. When I was a drum major in the marching band.

FDChief said...

Ael: "Imagine the cultural flexibility required to go from the little red book to pink mini skirts." But that's what made me goggle; it was the sheer cultural weirdness of it. It was the sort of thing that a 60-something party cadre would think of as "cool"; it's not so much cultural flexibility - you want flexibility, check out the girls in downtown Shanghai or Hong Kong in the chic-est of 2009 fashion. This a "power relationship" as defined by someone whose hipness was flash-frozen in 1968 (hence the Austin Powers ref). The thing that came to mind when I saw these (other than the utter silliness of "soldiers" prancing around in these) was the old lime colored Class A summer uniform the U.S. Army stuck its women with until the Eighties, the hated "slimy limey".

Linda: Yes, and I'll bet you looked about as martial as these women...

Ael said...

You are looking at it via western eyes.

The "great leap forward" was a formative experience for many of these people.

FDChief said...

Ael: They lept forward to the Swinging Sixties? I thought the "Great Leap Forward" was all about home blastfurnaces versus steel rolling mills, The Great Sparrow Campaign and people starving in the countryside? Did I miss something where agricultural collectivism was expressed as tight pink dresses and Soul-Train-dancer boots?

Ael said...

You are still missing it Chief.

The little red book and the great leap forward was all about social engineering. They were going to change China and damn the consequence.

Deng's economic reforms were also about changing China.

Those go-go boots and guns are also about changing China.
China has *way* more boys than girls to marry. The status of women is about to change in a big way.

It is clear that the powers-that-be are thinking about it and that their instincts for social engineering have not diminished.

mike said...

In addition to the pseudo-miniskirts and majorette boots, I was also fascinated by some of the military vehicle pics in that XINHUA photo gallery of the parade.

The camouflaged Infantry Fighting Vehicles and some of the other wheeled vehicles appeared to have whitewall tires?

What is with the tracked vehicles labeled as being for airborne forces? Typo or are they more for airmobile troopers rather than airborne.

Also, the digital camo patterns appear a little large and strange - or am I getting nearsighted in my old age?

FDChief said...

Ael: Not sure but you might be overthinking this. ISTM that the pink unis and the go-go boots are just a way of making the girl-soldiers "cute" in a cadre-approved sort of way for a public occasion. Looks nice and colorful, thinks the cadre, should appeal to the sort of girl who has a "Hello, Kitty" cell phone.

Not sure how this translates to social engineering or changing the status of women which, bar the fairly ineffective radical egalitarianism of the Cultural Revolution, is about where most industrialized Asian nations are. Careers are open to women but there is a glass ceiling/pink curtain.

ISTM this is just the result of an old Party or PLA guy trying to come up with an image that says "hip, cool and modern girls" without realizing that his hipster vibe got stuck somewhere. Either that or some Politburo or PLA senior type has a wicked sense of irony and is playing with us.

mkie: I think you're looking at the result of a couple of time-honored old Soviet-style military traditions that live on in the PLA.

The whitewall parade tires were a staple of the May Day parades in Red Square starting back in teh 40s. The PLA seems to have picked up on that.

The Soviet - and by contagion the PLA - airborne forces were always more heavily armored than ours. They had an APC, the BMD, specially designed for airdrop. The Sovs even designed their BMD-3 for heavy drop WITH THE CREW INSIDE! Talk about fucking scary...

I got a chuckle out of the big digital camo pattern, too. Not sure if this is their field pattern or something pretty just for the parade. I have never really understood the whole digital camo fashion, but supposedly the computer can detect efficiency that the human eye can't, so it can design a more effective pattern. Is this it? No idea.

Lisa said...

Happy birthday, FDChief :)

mike said...

Chief -

I remember the BMD. I do not believe it ever had a combat jump, not even with the rocket braking devices they developed.

Did the 82nd have anything similar???

The whitewalls I guess are probably appliques.

FDChief said...

mike: The closest we came was the adoption of the M557 "Sheridan" light tank as the AFV of choice of the 1/73rd Armor, out one (and only) armored formation. It was a Vietnam-era disaster and has (presumably) been replaced with the LAV/Stryker or its equivalent

mike said...

The Sheridan?? Again, no jumps that I know of. Unless you count being rolled out of the back of a C-130, while chained to a pallet, at an altitude of six feet above a runway, attached to four drogue chutes as a paradrop.

FDChief said...

mike: I understand that the Airborne Test Committee tried heavy-dropping them back in the 70s; dangerous and scary. When I was there they LAPES'd them in. At one of the CAPEX dog-and-pony shows in the early Eighties one of them bounced spectacularly, to the great entertainment of the joes assembled in the woodline on DZ support.