The Chinese military is training kindergarteners to handle firearms and fight like soldiers in boot camps across China this summer, according to dozens of school social media accounts reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The boot camps feature combat training for boys and girls with a wide variety of toy weapons including knives, grenades, rifles and shoulder-fired missiles, and require the children to adopt military behavior, such as saluting, the schools’ social media posts show. The rise in the militarization of China’s youth appears to follow a 2019 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee push for increased “National Defense Education” and a related effort directing schools to hold National Defense Education activities in 2022, according to government documents.
“There’s sort of a ‘get ’em while they’re young’ mentality that has always been part of the communist ethos,” Brandon Weichert, a U.S. Air Force consultant, told the DCNF. “Xi Jinping is trying to inculcate not just a patriotic fervor among the next generation, but I think he’s trying to also create actual next soldiers for the inevitable campaigns that he plans on waging militarily.”
Uniformed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers oversaw all of the kindergarten boot camps that the DCNF reviewed. The boot camps were located in major Chinese cities, such as Beijing, Nanjing and Shenzhen, and were also run in more than half a dozen provinces including Anhui, Fujian and Guangdong, according to the schools’ social media posts.
The programs featured roughly the same sequence of activities, according to a DCNF review of posts from the participating kindergartens.
The boot camps generally began with basic military etiquette and proceeded to teach various military skills ranging from combat to emergency medical training. Additionally, a number of these programs also taught the children about famous PLA heroes and martyrs, according to the schools’ accounts.
‘Swear To Love The Motherland’
In May 2023, faculty members and more than 80 children of the Xingtan Guanghui Kindergarten in Guangdong province assembled on the playground for the opening ceremony of their school’s week-long National Defense Education camp, all wearing matching camouflage fatigues, according to the school’s social media account.
“Kindergarten momma encourages her children not to fear hardship, fatigue or strict training,” the school’s principal told the children during the opening ceremony, the school’s social media account reported. “Respect the instructors and obey all commands.”
Uniformed PLA soldiers then performed a flag-raising ceremony, with all attendants singing the Chinese national anthem, the social media post stated.
“We solemnly swear to love the motherland from now on, to dedicate our hearts to working together to build the dream of a powerful country,” the children then pledged, according to the social media post. “Even if I fall to the ground I will continue onward!”
PLA soldiers then taught the kindergarten recruits how to groom themselves and make their beds in accordance with military standards, before drilling them in how to stand at attention, stand at ease and salute, the school’s social media account shows.
Experts say recent efforts to militarize China’s youth are part of the CCP’s ideological goals.
“While these measures do appear intended to put the Chinese masses on a stronger military footing in the longer term, they are also directed at the CCP’s longstanding efforts to deeply embed itself in civil-military relations and as part of its broader push to shore up the CCP’s legitimacy in the eyes of the Chinese masses through stoking nationalism,” Russell Hsiao, executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute, told the DCNF.
“The CCP has been hardening its ideological line over the past decade and these measures are indicative of this expanding ideological campaign undertaken by Xi Jinping,” Hsiao said. “Xi has long emphasized the importance of early political indoctrination of Chinese youths, so it is no surprise that the youths are also singled out as an important target of CCP’s National Defense Education program.”
‘If The Youth Are Strong, The Country Will Be Strong!’
After teaching the children how to follow orders and act as units, the various kindergarten bootcamps then typically graduated to weapons training, according to a DCNF review of the schools’ programs. A majority of the kindergarten boot camps provided a similar selection of toy weapons to the children.
The boot camps typically included some form of close combat training, and issued toy knives or toy batons and ballistic shields to the children. The various programs also usually taught the cadets “rifle tactics” with toy guns, according to the schools’ social media accounts.
Multiple programs used these toy guns for squad-based skirmish exercises, during which the children pretended to shoot each other, the posts show.
“If the youth are strong, the country will be strong!” children sang over footage of a skirmish exercise during the May 2023 Houjie Yazhi Kindergarten boot camp in Guangdong province, according to the school’s social media post.
The boot camps also frequently provided different types of toy high explosives to the “little soldiers,” the schools’ social media accounts show.
Some boot camps, such as the May 2023 Xingtan Guanghui Kindergarten program in Guangdong province, trained the children to use all three types of explosive weapons, the school’s social media account shows.
“They’re prepping for war, and now they’re getting their kids involved,” said Weichert, author of “Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life.”
“Their kids aren’t talking about boys becoming girls and vice versa. Their kids are talking about, ‘let’s go out with bayonets, play in the field and pretend like we’re killing Americans.’ That’s where this is headed,” Weichert said.
Several kindergarten boot camps reviewed by the DCNF taught children to emulate famous war heroes and PLA martyrs.
For example, a June 2023 National Defense Education event held by the No. 2 Experimental Kindergarten in Zhengzhou, Henan province, screened an episode of the computer-animated children’s series, “Long March Hero,” according to the school’s social media account.
Kung Fu Animation Studios and the Jiangxi provincial government co-created “Long March Hero,” which focuses on communist special forces prior to the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China, according to government records. Characters in “Long March Hero” frequently kill each other during battle sequences, according to a DCNF review of multiple episodes.
The Zhengzhou kindergarten’s social media account states that the children were allegedly riveted by the “Long March Hero” action scenes depicting the Red Army fighting Imperial Japanese forces.
Solomon Yue, co-founder of Republicans Overseas, an organization that advocates for Republicans living abroad, told the DCNF that while growing up in Shanghai during Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the PLA subjected his class to a type of National Defense Education training called the “Long March Exercise,” which simulated “a retreat under attack by America.”
“Kids were asked to march 20 miles a day with food and blankets on ones’ backs for a week,” Yue said.
The Chinese government is also teaching kindergarteners to admire PLA martyrs this summer, the DCNF found.
In one instance, the Qingyuan Experimental Kindergarten boot camp in Zhejiang province showed children an animated video about Huang Jiguang, a celebrated PLA martyr who sacrificed himself for his military company during the Korean War by sacrificing his body to cover the opening of an enemy machine gun nest in 1952.
Likewise, “little soldiers” at a kindergarten boot camp in Guangdong province’s Longmen county, learned about PLA martyrs like Dong Cunrui, who sacrificed his life to blow up a key bridge while fighting the Chinese Nationalist army in 1948.
Yue told the DCNF that the CCP taught his class to revere PLA martyrs when he was growing up in China.
“PLA soldiers visited my school to brainwash the kids often,” Yue said. “The CCP wanted Chinese youth to believe that being PLA martyrs was glorious. A suicide attack against one’s enemy is to honor the CCP.”
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