Rachel Lu

Chinese Social Media’s Guerrilla War Against Army Privileges

All drivers in China probably have had the experience at least once. While one waits dutifully in front of a red light or gets in line to pay a toll, another car bearing a special white license plate marking its status as a vehicle belonging to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or the Armed Police cruises by and brazenly breaks all traffic rules. Police overlook the transgressions. Toll collectors open a designated lane. Fellow drivers fume.

China’s Internet users have begun to wage guerrilla warfare against the PLA’s vehicular privileges on social media. Answering a call by Yu Jianrong, a sociology professor and advocate, users of Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, have sent him photos of cars with PLA license plates. A number of examples are below.

These cars tend to be the expensive kind. Range Rover, BMW and Audi seem to be the mainstay. Ultra-luxurious brands like Bentley and Maserati make appearances as well.

While many Internet users jump to the conclusion that some servicemen in the PLA use taxpayer money to get nice rides for themselves, others have pointed out that it is not necessarily the case. Many wealthy businessmen pull connections to finagle PLA license plates for their cars to take advantage of the privileges on the road. Fake PLA plates also have a large market.

Nonetheless, the campaign is another attempt by China’s Internet users to chip away the privileges and mystique enjoyed by the PLA in Chinese society.

[Cover image by Steve Webel via Flickr]

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.