PLA 'Beat It' video: Is being cheeky about China's military risky business?

'Beat It' video of China's People's Liberation Army groovin' to a Michael Jackson song goes viral. Will officials 'harmonize' the tribute?

Screen shot of PLA 'Beat It' video from YouTube

Chalk up another viral video in the “Soldiers, music, inappropriate use of” category.

But if the Israeli soldiers dancing in the streets of occupied Hebron were controversial, this hilarious tribute to Michael Jackson, supposedly from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, is just cheeky.

Where it comes from, nobody knows. Even being cheeky about the PLA is a risky business in China. One of the many versions on the Chinese Internet carries a warning: “Watch this while you can, it will be harmonized sooner or later.”

(“Harmonized” is Chinese Internaut slang for “censored,” a reference to President Hu Jintao's favorite slogan, “harmonious society.”)

But the popularity of the video, which has gone viral here, would likely defeat any attempt the authorities might make to wipe it off the Web. It is everywhere, on videosharing sites, on chat rooms, and on blogs.

The music you hear is “Beat It,” apparently to mark the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. The music the gentleman in the gray uniform with red PLA collar flashes was actually singing is from “The Long March” song cycle, a revolutionary piece of music composed in 1965 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Long March.

Everybody in the video, all wearing identical gray uniforms with red collar flashes, came from the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Beijing Military Region of the PLA.

This video is laugh-out-loud funny, even if you are a fan of neither Michael Jackson nor the PLA. I recommend paying especial attention to the electric guitar solo, apparently issuing from the mournful strings of a Chinese erhu, a long-necked two stringed instrument.


of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.