This from my colleague in Beijing Lin Yang:
I have become a TV fan at a very unlikely time. When all channels are playing the 17th Party Congress materials during prime time, there is one channel that stands out. Instead of playing hard-core propaganda, it is playing a “dramaganda,” as I call it, about the People’s Liberation Army. So far the 28-episode miniseries, Soldier Sortie, seems to be mainly about a bunch of PLA Special Forces soldiers (and not a single woman included, mind you) suffering through self-created hardship and shedding copious tears when they lose a comrade. Still, I have turned into a remote tyrant, barking at whatever human or pet that dares to stand in my way when the main character of the episode, a Forrest-Gump-type farmer boy turned soldier appears on TV.
Soldier Sortie is the most successful series (even more so than Prison Break, according to an internet poll) on Chinese TV at the moment. The reason is simple—we are finally getting to watch a story that comes across as real and not based around a too-perfect main character or an equally unbelievable love triangle. The hero of the series, Xu Sanduo, could be any one of us. At the age of twenty and barely having finished high school, Xu is forced by his father to join the army. He doesn’t find being a PLA soldier particularly glamorous but works hard and eventually is admitted to an elite Special Forces unit. For the first time, a Chinese soldier portrayed in dramaganda seems human: even I don’t cry nearly as much as those tough guys.
Oh by the way, aside from endearing the PLA to the public and boosting patriotic zeal in China, the show is said to be appreciated by the U.S. soldiers as well. According to a Shanghai paper, which translated an article from a U.S. army publication, “Soldiers Magazine”, even the commander of the famous Delta Force is impressed by the “training, war strategy, and equipment” of the PLA special forces depicted in the show. As much as I’d like to, I can’t vouch for the validity of this information though. the GFW (Great Firewall) has blocked me from reading what my fellow Soldier Sortie fans really said.