The PLA Turns 90 Tomorrow, Netizens Celebrate Virally

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9:48 PM HKT, Mon July 31, 2017

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), earth’s largest military body, turns 90 tomorrow, and the people are celebrating with patriotic blogs posts, ceremonial troop inspections, and, of course, virtual cosplay.

Yes — the latest trend to whip around the Chinese internet is a meme-machine released by People’s Daily, an official government paper, allowing users to create their own PLA mugshot. Simply upload your face then select your imaginary years served to see how you’d look in martial garb dating from 1927 to now.

Hard to tell how much of this is patriotism and how much is an inbuilt quirk of the bizarre, hyperspeed evolution of China’s viral visual culture. A bit of both, to be sure. One Weibo user named Tao posted a gallery of her own face in 11 different historical periods with the rousing couplet, “爱国青年韬上线,庆祝中国人民解放军建军90周年” (“Patriotic youth Tao goes online, celebrating the PLA’s 90th anniversary”… it rhymes in Chinese). Many people in my WeChat feed seem to be jumping on the bandwagon for no other reason than it’s a novel departure from the by-now tame Meitu fare of rabbit ears and gigantic eyes.

Anyway: PLA yourself right here if you’re feeling nostalgic, patriotic, or generally curious.

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