Folk singer is China’s weapon of choice amid row over disputed islands

China’s military has a bulging arsenal of ships, warplanes and missiles, but this week, music is its weapon of choice. It has dispatched popular folk singer Song Zuying to entertain troops and construction workers at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys in the South China Sea. The singer, who came to international prominence when she performed with Celine Dion in 2013, arrived with her 50-strong military song and dance team on the disputed territory where China is building up its military presence. Among the songs they performed was the tub-thumping Ode To The South Sea Defenders.

A troop of stout men with guns in their hands who battle the wind and fight the waves to guard the nation’s door

Lyric from Ode To The South Sea Defenders

Several countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, claim sovereignty over the Spratlys, where China is constructing artificial islands. It says they are for civilian use but photos from the performance show multi-storey buildings and a large warship in the background. Meanwhile, the Chinese military has also released a recruitment video with a rap soundtack to encourage millennials raised on pop tunes and video games to sign up. It features lyrics such as “just waiting for the order to kill, kill, kill” and “war can break out at any time — are you ready?”

The style of promotion accords with the attitudes of young people toward the army and the imagery used appeals to hot-blooded young men

Retired Col Yue Gang