As political commissar of the 10th detachment of the Beijing division of the Chinese People's Armed Police Force, Wang Jianhua is fully aware of the importance of his job. He is in charge of security around Tian'anmen Square, the world's largest city square and the geographic and symbolic center of Beijing. The security of Tian'anmen Square, the Palace Museum and the National Museum are all the detachment's responsibility.
"Tian'anmen Square is a place of utmost importance because of its political significance. This poses a tremendous challenge to our work," Wang said. "Its security is of great symbolic significance to national stability."
Wang's detachment has every reason to be on full alert. Tian'anmen Square has been the site of many milestone events in Chinese history, including the founding of the republic. Since the 1980s, more than 300 million people have come to the square to watch the flag-raising ceremony.
On the walls of the dormitory of the National Flag Guard, the unit of the 10th detachment responsible for escorting, raising and defending China's national flag in the square, hangs a banner that reads: "Outside this door is the No 1 sentry post of our homeland."
China's No 1 sentry post demands a top-notch armed police force, and the detachment does not disappoint. This year's CAPF Beijing combat capability competition was won by its special operations squad. It has contributed to the success of marquee political events, including national congresses of the Communist Party of China, annual sessions of the National People's Congress and state visits of foreign leaders.
A new soldier assigned to the National Flag Guard has to march tens of thousands of steps every day. After two years of training, he will have marched more than 13,000 kilometers on average.
The region around Tian'anmen Square and the Palace Museum is home to some of Beijing's most famous architecture. Construction of new buildings is generally not allowed, so the detachment has to make do with old ones.
"Our dormitories may not be the best, but our morale is unrivaled," said Du Zeheng, logistics head of the detachment.
The detachment is constantly in the public eye.
"People see the image of the whole Chinese military in us, so we always keep our boots highly polished and our uniforms spotless," said Zhang Haizhou, a squad leader. "Sometimes tourists and their children salute us. That always makes us proud."
Zhang recalled a policeman from Australia who asked for a photograph with him while he was on duty. After Zhang told him it was against regulations, the policeman praised him for his sense of duty.
In cases of important international gatherings, such as the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the soldiers act as guards for guests. Those with better English help those who are weaker in the language to learn simple dialogue.
"Newer soldiers generally have better education and are better at English," said Liu Yu, 23, who scored 130 points out of 150 on the English language portion of China's college entrance examination before joining the military.
"What's interesting is when foreigners try to talk with us in simple Chinese," Liu said.