Female honor guards from the People’s Liberation Army grabbed the limelight during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Wednesday, hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping for the President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov.

The 55 female guards stood in an independent formation for the first time, as part of a rejig of the PLA guard of honor battalion and its band to draw new recruits and give the welcoming ceremony more pomp.

The People’s Daily heaped praise on women, aged from 20 to 25 and selected from the three military services, who stand on average at 176 centimeters (5 feet 7 inches) tall and must march in time with the PLA band’s martial music.

Xi is known for his penchant for military fanfare, and on top of a host of parades held since he took power in 2012, the formation of the female honor guard is seen by some as a sign of his newfound interest in more ostentation for diplomatic occasions. Welcoming ceremonies for foreign dignitaries by his predecessors used to be short and simple.

photo00012018-06-06DJL2U5QL00AN0001NOS
The female guard of honor has members from the PLA’s three services. Photo: Xinhua
1440407489341
Members of the honor guard are seen in daily, routine training. Photo: People’s Daily