Improvement of China-India border outpost proves PLA’s logistics capability, boosting soldiers’ morale
Post in cloud
Published: Sep 27, 2021 09:11 PM
Squad members of the Zhanniangshe post hold a Chinese national flag. Photo: Li Jieyi/GT

Soldiers of the Zhanniangshe post hold a Chinese national flag. Photo: Li Jieyi/GT

Zhanniangshe border post, known as the "post in cloud," is built on a steep cliff, 4,655 meters above sea level, and was very difficult to access, even for military logistics support.

It is located in the southern foot of the Himalayas, in Yadong county, Southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region.

Several years ago, media reported on the isolation and harsh life at the post, and the post was known by public.

However, as a surprise, the Global Times reporters visited Zhanniangshe post recently and found that living condition at the "lonely islet in snow mountain" has improved greatly. Logistics transportation has also become easier.

Behind this improvement are the country's investment in infrastructural development at the border frontline, and its attaching importance to officers and soldiers.

Zhanniangshe's change shows the country and People's Liberation Army (PLA)'s great improvement in logistics support capability.

Zhanniangshe post has transformed from the "post with the harshest environment" to the "most beautiful post."

Islet on cliff

Zhanniangshe means "a place where even hawks cannot fly over" in the Tibetan language.

The outpost sits on a cliff peak at 4,655 meters above sea level, and sees wind, snow, and fog almost all year round. Snowstorms can be seen for almost 200 days in a year.

Therefore, Zhanniangshe is also known as "the islet on the snow mountain" or "the outpost in the cloud."

The post is built on the mountain peak with a land space of about 40 square meters. The warm and wet current from the northern Indian Ocean and the cold current of the Himalayas meet here, creating consistent, strong wind.

To avoid being blow down the cliff, in the past, soldiers had to tie themselves by the waist when they were standing guard at the sentry post.

More difficult was that heavy snow would cut the transport line in the mountains for six months a year. Before the mountains were sealed, the Zhanniangshe squad had to create storage bunkers of food as well as books and other recreational goods to help them overcome the long winter.

Soldiers joked that when the spring came, some of them would have even memorized articles from the newspaper used as wallpapers. 

In post winter, soldiers used to use melted snow water as they are stuck in the mountains. They had to carry the snow to the post, but the process was very dangerous.

In March 2007, three soldiers died after falling off the cliff while fetching snow.

The harsh and painful memories still remain with some veterans of Zhanniangshe post.

A home in cloud

Although life was difficult in the past, living and working condition at Zhanniangshe post have been changed greatly in the past couple of years thanks to the enhanced logistical support capability of the PLA.

Nowadays, vehicles can reach the post via road directly, and the road is mostly in good condition. Even during the time when snow seals the mountains, vehicles can still send goods at the foot of the post, and then ropeway takes over. To lower the effect the heavy snow brings to patrol and training of the soldiers, the Zhanniangshe post has built up a "sunshine corridor" along which pictures and stories of the PLA models, making the corridor a mini museum in honor of the Chinese border defense.

Though the space is limited, the Zhanniangshe post has various functional areas. In its three-floor building, the post not only has a room as a sentry box and several dormitory rooms, but also a washing room, a kitchen, a storage, a canteen, a boiler room, and infirmary.

The most eye-catching part of Zhanniangshe post is the newly-decorated entertainment space, which has a living room, a reading room, and a cybercafé.

The portable karaoke machine, shaped like a telephone booth and has become popular in shopping malls in China, can also be seen here in the entertainment space in Zhanniangshe.

A treadmill allows soldiers to work out even in the coldest winter days.

Chang Ke, squad leader at Zhanniangshe post, told the Global Times that the post has the capacity to provide many ways of entertainment to help soldiers overcome the long winter. 

On their spare time from work, soldiers love to play popular online games in the entertainment room. They could also use their phones to play Tencent's "Arena of Valor" with WIFI.

"When the weather is good, the WIFI speed at the post is as good as that at home," Chang said. "But when it is cloudy, the signal is relatively weaker."

Apart from entertainment, the soldiers now enjoy better living conditions. When carrying out tasks, soldiers can have different kinds of cans, which are neatly sorted in the storage room.

Most days, the soldiers can enjoy fresh vegetables, meat, and fruit shipped from below the mountain.

Simply by using an APP developed by the Xizang Military Command, after a few clicks, the soldiers at Zhanniangshe are able to order any food they want to eat.

Fan Shaofu, a soldier who has been in Zhanniangshe for eight years, showcased the APP for the Global Times reporters on a tablet.

A soldier at the Zhanniangshe post orders food through an APP developed by the Xizang military district. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

A soldier at the Zhanniangshe post orders food through an APP developed by the Xizang Military Command. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

On the APP, the menus show various categories, such as fruit, seafood, and diary products. Under the fruit category, there are watermelons, peaches, and even durian and dragon fruits under the tropical fruit sub-category. 

Under the seafood category, soldiers can choose from many species of fish and scrimp. They can choose processed fish, ready to be cooked or fish that is delivered alive.

"There are many types of fish that I had never heard of," Fan said. He revealed that the food delivery system could send goods twice a week to them. Even during the cold season when the snow cuts the road off, the system can still ensure a delivery on time.

The ordering and delivery of food is free for the soldiers. They only need to click the tablet and wait to receive the goods.

On the day the Global Times visited the Zhanniangshe post, the soldiers had a lunch meal comprising of seven dishes and a soup. They had both fried rice and steamed rice.

A lunch at Zhanniangshe post. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

A lunch at Zhanniangshe post. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

The dishes included spicy boiled pork slices, scrambled eggs, and black bone chicken soup. After lunch the soldiers had fresh yellow peaches and canned pear in syrup as dessert.

Fan has witnessed the changes at the post. He told the Global Times that in the past, water had been a big problem for soldiers. Even in summertime, they have to climb down half the mountain to fetch water from a lake, which would take them three or four hours. 

But now, they have a water storage system, bringing the water directly to the post. They could also use an electric hot water heater to take showers.

The post with the harshest condition has become the most beautiful post on the cloud. "I couldn't have believed such a change was possible," said Fan.

Improving morale

The significant change has not only happened in Zhanniangshe, but also in many other frontline military installations, the Global Times learned through the trip.

Many soldiers and officers said that since 2017, changes in infrastructures and living conditions have been huge at the frontline of border defense.

Ma Xiaoming, a regiment leader at Zhanniangshe post, told the Global Times that at present, the construction of frontline guard posts is a key task. 

All the outposts stationed by the regiment are now accessible by roads. Some roads have been completed, and some roads are still under construction. It is expected that within a short period of time, all frontline outposts will be accessible by asphalt roads.

In addition, since the beginning of this year, the construction of border insulation posts, ropeways, electricity, and water use, and mobile signal towers have all been accelerated and will be completed as soon as planned.

"Not only in Zhanniangshe, but in Zhuola, Zelila, and Naiduila posts of our regiment. The conditions have all been improved greatly," Ma said.

Since 2020, the Party Committee of the Xizang Military Command has been studying and solving the "six major difficulties" for soldiers on the frontline and the troops on the Qinghai-Xizang and Sichuan-Xizang lines, which include electricity, water, heating, medical care, oxygen inhalation, and toiletries, the PLA Daily reported.

A soldier sorts through the food storage in Zhanniangshe post. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

A soldier sorts through the food storage in Zhanniangshe post. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Ma said that since the soldiers' living conditions have been improved, they could focus more on training and their duty, which is of great help to the improvement of combat effectiveness. The improvement of road condition has also greatly improved the mobile and rapid response capabilities of frontline troops.

"When communicating with foreign military officers, I can clearly feel their envy of our logistics support capabilities," Ma said. "Our soldiers now eat hot meals at the front lines; their many problems have been solved." 

"This has invisibly strengthened the confidence of our officers and soldiers to safeguard the front line," he said. 

"In patrolling duty, through comparison, soldiers can intuitively feel the strength of our country, and a sense of pride emerges spontaneously, which brings psychological advantage," Ma Xiaoming said.