A ground forces unit of the People's Liberation Army in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region introduced a star to the media last month.
The interview room in a military camp was crowded with reporters on July 14, all eager to interview Major Liu Jin, a 36-year-old battalion commander and model soldier ahead of Army Day, which fell on Sunday.
Liu's wife and mother-in-law also attended the interview, with reporters peppering the excited family with questions that they scrambled to answer. The atmosphere became so boisterous that Liu was later asked to go to a separate room to continue the interview.
During his 18 years of service, Liu has won many awards during drills and many medals from military competitions. A skilled member of the special forces, he is also a role model in the military.
"We have to train harder in military exercises and drills so that one day, if we have to go to war, we will be better and stronger than our enemy," he said. "Therefore, I always want to challenge myself, both in military practice and in my life."
Liu grew up in a military family, and even though he was a naughty child, he harbored a sense of awe and respect for the armed forces. When he turned 18 and became eligible for service, his father, who was also a soldier, did not have to persuade him to sign up.
"I told my father at the time that I was not only willing to serve, but also I would serve in the toughest troop in the harshest environment," he said.
Liu was born in Runan county, Henan province. More than 80 years ago, General Peng Xuefeng organized a troop near Liu's hometown and fought Japanese soldiers during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).
In Peng's honor, a brigade of a ground forces unit in Ningxia was named Brigade Xuefeng. Liu joined that unit in 2003.
"I knew they were a special forces unit and their members were the best of the best, so I signed up for the brigade without any hesitation," he said.
Liu impressed his comrades-in-arms not long after he arrived. In the first training assessment for recruits, he received full marks in the shooting exercise. All five of the bullets he fired were right on the bull's-eye, and the perfect result led him to join the brigade's most elite company.
"To prove that I was not invited to the company by sheer luck, I was always the first to wake up in the morning and the last to bed. I barely had time to relax because I tried to practice every day, even on the weekends," Liu said.
He also took part in one of the most difficult training exercises－shooting from a moving vehicle. Though the target is fixed, the constant need to shift position means the soldiers have to keep their faces tightly pressed against their rifles to ensure stability.
It took Liu several months before he could hit the target every time. The exercise rubbed off a layer of skin on his face and left it with heavy calluses.
Within three years, Liu had mastered skills including wrestling, parachuting and sniping.
"In 2006, I was recommended to participate in a competition on behalf of my unit in Ningxia. I remember when I was ready to compete in the wrestling event, a commander told me that I did not have to be too serious because I was the only private in the competition," Liu said.
What the commander told Liu motivated him to do the opposite. During the motorcycle riding event, Liu cut his leg to the bone, but he behaved as if it were no big deal and dressed the wound himself.
"I could not tell anyone, because if I did, I would not have been able to participate in the competition anymore," he said.
Liu went on to finish the skills competition in second place. "Daily discipline is how great things get done," he said.
In 2008, because of his impressive performance in that competition and in routine drills, Liu earned the chance to join an army academy in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province. Upon graduation two years later, he became a PLA officer.
After becoming a commander, Liu strove to work even harder.
With his achievements continuing to gain recognition in the military, he has been invited to take part in more competitions.
Liu has been selected to represent the Chinese army in various international military competitions and has earned many medals for the country.
"In 2012, I was in a military competition held in Pakistan, and one of the events was called "survival in the wild". Before the start, the examiner asked everybody how we were going to survive if there was no food. I immediately grabbed a handful of grass and ate it in front of him," Liu said.
"He was surprised, but I knew that actions always speak louder than words."
Like many in the special forces, Liu has had to sacrifice something to become an excellent soldier. For him, it has been quality time with his family.
His wife, Bai Xue, said: "We can only spend a few weeks together, as most of the time he has to stay in the military. I remember one day when he came back home, our little son hid behind me because he could not recognize his father."
Liu said he was not there when his son was born.
"As a Chinese saying goes, one's loyalty to the country and filial piety cannot exist at the same time. I owe my wife a lot, and I hope I can make it up to her after retirement," he said.
"But until then, I will continue to do my best in the military, and one day, if I am sent to war, I will be the most intrepid soldier on the battlefield."