WENSHAN, Yunnan, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- To 53-year-old Liu Zhihe, it is easy to grab a machine gun and fight on the battleground, but it is a big headache to press any button on a computer keyboard in the office.
"It's a tough job for me to learn new technologies such as office automation," he said. Liu has been on active service for 36 years and is now political commissar of the Wenshan Military Area Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in southwestern Yunnan Province.
"In this regard, we cannot keep abreast of young soldiers who have relatively higher education, active thought, broad vision, abundant knowledge and better ability to study," he said.
Today's soldiers are under much greater study and training pressure than before against the backdrop of a globalization and information era, he said.
"So many things take place in the world every day and lots of new technologies are invented. But if you want to be a winner in hi-tech information warfare, you have to keep learning and updating your knowledge all the time," he said.
Changes to the 2.3-million-servicemen-strong PLA over the past several decades are even more than those catalogued by Liu.
In addition to the three large-scale disarmaments in 1985, 1997and 2003 in which China announced a reduction of 1.7 million servicemen in total, the most visible changes can be found in the necessities of life: Dacron clothes were substituted by more comfortable wool-like uniforms; tents or makeshift houses were replaced by garden- and villa-like barracks; servicemen used to rely on their own feet or horses for transport while today, they have SUVs; eating one's fill was the ultimate goal in the past when the country was short of food, but nowadays, varieties and nutritive value of foods are stressed.
"We had no shooting range then," Liu recalled. "Now, a variety of training grounds and armaments are available. We also carry out exchanges with foreign militaries and draw on useful training experiences from them."
Another change that impressed Liu most was the marked increase of messing allowance for young soldiers.
"It was 12 yuan (1.8 U.S. dollars) for a soldier per month. Now, it is 18 yuan a day," he said.
Liu described the changes as "earth-shaking" and attributed them to the reform and opening-up policy initiated 30 years ago.
"The reform and opening-up brought about the rapid growth of China's economy and boosted the overall national strength, which laid a solid foundation for the building of national defense and army," he said. "As a result, the country can afford to raise the defense budget somewhat and help improve the life of army men."
"Simply speaking, we officers and soldiers are beneficiaries of the policy."