In the past four decades the Chinese army has been better equipped, but the tradition virtues of frugality, discipline and readiness to serve the people remain unchanged among the troops.
"Guards Under Neon Light" was a household name of Chinese movie more than 40 years ago depicting a company of soldiers who patrolled on a dazzling road of Shanghai but resisted various lures of the booming city and remained frugal, well-disciplined and ready to serve people.
The film grew out of the actual "eighth company on the Nanjing Road" which was awarded by the Ministry of National Defence in 1963 for its frugality, diligence in military training and enthusiasm in serving the people.
"From then on, we have been screening the film 'Guards Under Neon Light' to new recruits, asking them to carry on the company's traditional virtues," said Zhang Daoguang, the current commander of the company.
Soldiers must spend eight to nine hours every day in military training programs, including shooting and physical exercises. "No matter how abominable the weather is, how tired the soldiers are, they should finish the planned military training without any slackness," Zhang said.
More than 40 years ago, the company's soldiers were asked to save every cent of money, every grain of rice, every kilowatt of electricity, every inch of cloth and every tael of coal.
With economic and social development over the past decades, the current Eighth Company soldiers, although a large proportion of them come from well-off families, are required to save every cent of money, every piece of paper, every grain of rice, every drop of water and every kilowatt of electricity, said Zhang.
Instilling the company's traditions to soldiers is one of the important component of the training, he said.
General Chen Maohui, an official with the political department of the Nanjing Military Area, said, "Fighting and sacrificing lives for the country and enduring all the hardships for the country are the glorious traditions of the PLA."
In China, the fame of "hard-boned sixth company" keeps abreast with the "eighth company on the Nanjing Road". The title of "hard-boned sixth company" was conferred by the Ministry of National Defense in 1964. The company was awarded the title again in 1985 for its outstanding performance in a self-defence border war.
Currently, the company's soldiers spend around ten hours a day for military training and are often brought to wild islands for survival training without food, water or lodging. Long-distance swimming is also a compulsory training component.
Sergeant Zhou Lei said, "At the first day I came to the company, our monitor took us to visit the company's 'honor hall'. After learning the traditions and glorious stories of our early peers, I felt its my duty to do as well as my them."
In the People's Liberation Army, there are numerous other companies given such titles by the Ministry of National Defense for their fortitude and bravery.
"Helping soldiers carry on glorious traditions is an important method of the PLA to maintain its fighting capability," said Wang Jingwen, who used to serve as the political instructor with the "eighth company on the Nanjing Road".
(Xinhua News Agency July 23, 2007)