As part of an upskilling process, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is promoting more soldiers to the rank of sergeant, according to the latest figures from the PLA.
Half of the enlisted troops are now sergeants, a rank introduced to China 29 years ago, reflecting the needs of a more modern and more high-tech army.
In 2003, the PLA began recruiting qualified professional technicians from non-military departments to occupy positions which require new and complicated weapon skills.
"Now sergeants occupy all the key positions that require high-tech skills in fields such as armour, missiles, communications, radar and naval vessels," said Li Jianbo, an officer from Beijing Military Area Command.
The Chinese military service law revised in 1998 states that soldiers who volunteer to prolong their active duty and acquire the necessary qualifications can be promoted to the rank of sergeant.
According to the Active Soldier Service Ordinance, a sergeant can serve as long as 30 years. Senior sergeants enjoy the same treatment as regimental officers, and both can serve till retirement.
Since 1999, the number of trained sergeants in the PLA has increased by 30,000 annually, with more than 300,000 sergeants obtaining professional certificates.
The restructuring of the Army is considered vital as a way of lifting standards and improving battle effectiveness.
(PLA Daily July 16, 2007)