China: Female guards debut in military parade

Female soldiers in the Chinese Army Image copyright AFP
Image caption Women in the Chinese army have traditionally held non-combat roles - although that's changing

China is adding knee-high skirts and 5cm (2in) heels to its military parades as its first female honour guard welcomed the president of Turkmenistan.

An approving Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhavedov, said: "It's very nice, very good," as 30 soldiers from the People's Liberation Army, including 13 women, strode into Beijing's Great Hall of the People, carrying their guns, the state news agency Xinhua reports. It's said to be the first time female honour guards have been part of a top-level diplomatic event since the non-combat squad was set up in 1952.

They're just as good as their male counterparts - maybe even better considering they have to wear high heels - says their captain, Cheng Cheng. The military press says it's a sign the country is modernising, the South China Morning Post reports. Women in the Chinese army have traditionally been assigned to artist troupes and communications, but some have joined fighter jet squadrons and combat troops.

Meanwhile, the Turkmen president seems to have incorporated a book launch into his state visit. Between signing energy deals, he presented his own novel, Bird of Happiness, in Chinese, at a ceremony attended by diplomats and cultural dignitaries.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A female soldier gets ready for the welcome ceremony in Beijing

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