Boy saved from earthquake grows up to join People’s Liberation Army, inspires netizens to reflect on China’s military spirit
Published: Mar 23, 2021 05:57 PM
A photo of Rao Hongyin. Photo: Sina Weibo

A photo of Rao Hongyin. Photo: Sina Weibo

Netizens have been moved by the story of Rao Hongyin, a 24-year-old man who joined the People's Liberation Army (PLA) more than a decade after being saved by PLA soldiers following the devastating 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. His decision to follow in the footsteps of those who saved him has touched netizens, many of whom say they feel he is carrying on their spirit.   

Determined to serve the PLA despite having been accepted as a master's degree candidate in September 2020, Rao is currently a non-commissioned officer in an artillery brigade under the 73rd Group Army of the PLA. 

What drove Rao to become a soldier was the challenging life experience he has gone through since he was buried under precast slabs of concrete 13 years ago during the unexpected earthquake in Wenchuan, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, in 2008. 

An 11-year-old boy at the time, Rao was one of the children who were discovered by a military rescue team. They saved the unconscious boy from the ruins created by the disaster, giving him a new lease on life. Ever since then, PLA soldiers have been his role model. Prior to his decision to join the military, Rao spent years studying medicine with the goal of becoming a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine who could help people for free when needed. 

Rao's story has gone viral, earning more than 100 million views on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo as of Tuesday afternoon. Netizens expressed their support for Rao, saying they were touched by how China's younger generations can carry on the spirit of Chinese soldiers. 

Others shared their interpretation of the "spirit" of China's military.

"To sum up, I think it means to be ready to dedicate yourself to the country, to people whenever they need us," Yao, a female Senior Colonel who joined the PLA when she was around 14 years old in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"There are many qualities of a Chinese soldier - loyalty, resilience, courage and being willing to fight against hardships. They may look steely and serious, but they are essentially warm people with the courage to sacrifice themselves," Li, a former radar soldier who served in the PLA Air Force in regions such as South China's Guangdong Province, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Rao is not the only young person who grew up inspired by China's military spirit and learned to be loyal, resilient and dedicated. 

"From what I've experienced since I was young, my dad threw me into the pool to teach me to swim. That was a bit stiff, and I often felt intimidated by him. But, looking at what they did for our big family, my mom's selfless nature that comes naturally even when helping people she doesn't know or when she doesn't need to, I think I'm proud of being someone who was born in a military family," Huang, a 35-year-old man whose parents are retired senior colonels, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

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