Revised military regulation aims to safeguard state secrets in an increasingly connected world.
A revised regulation on the internal affairs of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will introduce new provisions for soldiers’ online and offline habits.
Posted Tuesday to China Military Online, the official news website of the PLA, the guideline will come into effect on May 1. Here’s a list of its key provisions.
Soldiers shall be barred from engaging in online marketing, including the sale and promotion of products or services. They should also take care not to disclose state secrets or identifying information about their military units when making online purchases. Any deliveries — including food takeout — must be received off military grounds.
2. Personal transport
In February 2016, the PLA warned soldiers of the risks of using ride-hailing apps while on base, as doing so reveals the user’s GPS location. The new regulation goes a step further, denying hired cars being entry to military facilities. In addition, the brightly colored bicycles of Mobike, Ofo, and other bike-sharing companies will be banned from bases.
3. Online identity
Under the revised regulation, soldiers may not create chat groups or online forums that incorporate the name or code name of their military unit, nor may they engage in activity through online platforms like Weibo, Baidu Tieba, Toutiao, Zhihu, or WeChat public accounts that is deemed to be “against the rules” — though said rules are not defined.
Military personnel must use their real names when registering accounts on social messaging services like WeChat and QQ. They should not post ads seeking jobs, friends, or romantic partners on mass media, nor should they use the internet to conduct any activity that might damage the PLA’s image. In addition, soldiers should not have “improper or unnecessary” relations with local civilians.
While the PLA in August 2016 reminded soldiers with a penchant for livestreaming — an increasingly popular hobby in China — not to divulge state secrets, the new revision bars military personnel from creating livestreaming accounts that “violate rules.”
5. Cellphone use
All mobile phones must be registered under soldiers’ real identities. While staff are on duty, their phones shall be collected and kept stowed away: They may not use electronic devices to access the internet except after hours, on weekends, and on holidays.
While these policies have long been enforced at military sites, this marks the first time they have been included in an overarching regulation.
Soldiers are allowed to smoke, eat, and fan themselves — but only while stationary. Doing any of these things while walking is forbidden. (This requirement has long been enforced and is not unique to the revised regulation.)
In an unexpected loosening of the law, the PLA’s new guideline allows soldiers to wear their uniforms at some nonmilitary functions, such as weddings, award ceremonies, and class reunions — a freedom previously forbidden.
But with uniforms come responsibilities. Soldiers in full dress must hold their umbrellas in their left hands, and only when it is raining or snowing. Uniformed soldiers are also forbidden from wearing gold bracelets, prayer beads, and other jewelry or accessories.
Online, the new revision has elicited a wide range of responses. “My husband’s a soldier!” wrote one enthusiastic netizen on microblog platform Weibo. “I’ve always dreamed of taking wedding photos with him in his military uniform!”
“Even though it’s allowed now, I wouldn’t wear [a military uniform in a casual setting],” wrote another user. “It wouldn’t be at all easy to go on holiday — one dare not slack off when in uniform,” he explained, referring to the higher moral standard often applied to soldiers.
An unnamed military official told PLA Daily, the official publication of China’s armed forces, that once the new guideline takes effect, the army will step up efforts to root out impostors who masquerade in military dress to receive special treatment and privileges, to ensure that the Chinese military’s reputation is not tarnished by charlatans.