The People's Liberation Army will loosen its tight controls on the use of cellphones by service members, the PLA General Staff Headquarters, said last week.
Issues pertaining to cellphone use by personnel of the PLA have attracted a lot of attention and are a difficult problem in service members' management, the statement said in announcing the revisions.
"Along with the evolution of information technology, service members' demand for information has grown," the statement said. "Responding to this situation, we will make some changes to the current stipulations on the use of cellphones to meet service members' reasonable needs."
In addition, rules governing PLA members' use of the Internet and uniform code for civilian personnel will also be adjusted, it added, without giving details about the adjustments. The revisions are part of the PLA's ongoing efforts to update three regulations that govern service members' conduct and discipline. The updated versions will take effect next year.
The PLA Academy of Military Science is responsible for the revisions and will send researchers to various PLA units to solicit soldiers' suggestions and find which parts of the current regulations, which took effect in June 2010, have become inconsistent with service members' needs, the statement said.
"According to the current regulations, officers and soldiers in my unit are banned from using cellphones from Monday to Saturday, whether they want to make a call, send a text message or take a picture," said an officer of the Beijing Military Command who asked for anonymity.
"Only unit commanders and a handful of officers are allowed to use cellphones on weekdays, but they can't use smartphones that can log on to the Internet and take pictures," he said. "Considering that this is the information age, such stipulations should be changed. The military can develop and produce its own cellphones that are secure and have access to our internal website."
This is the second time this year that the military has brought up cellphone use and the Internet. In early February, the PLA published a host of rules, including prohibitions on running personal blogs, online chats and job hunting.
Yu Qiaohua, a professor studying military personnel management at PLA National Defence University, said it is a universal requirement for service members around the world to keep their job secret.
"Modern communication platforms such as the Internet can be easily used by foreign agents to collect sensitive information about the PLA, so service personnel must enhance their awareness of secrecy and maintain vigilance when using such platforms," she said.