China will use a card containing a microchip to replace the existing identity card which is simply made from paper and wrapped in a transparent plastic coating.
The plan was revealed by an official with the Ministry of Public Security yesterday.
The new ID system, which stores personal information on a microchip embedded in a plastic card, will enable automatic identification, said Qiu Xuexin, director of the No. 1 Research Institute under the Ministry of Public Security.
Qiu said the State Council has basically approved the scheme submitted by the ministry, and action will be taken following positive feedback from other government departments.
It is likely that the government will launch a pilot program in a couple of big cities, probably including Shenzhen, by the end of this year.
Next year, college students may be the first batch of people across the country to use the new card. It's expected that they may use the card to apply for bank loans.
It will take up to five years for the 1.3 billion Chinese people to switch from the first generation ID card to the second generation system. Both cards will co-exist before the replacement is over, Qiu said.
"The current ID card that includes a person's head portrait and basic information such as name, sex, birthday and ID number is relatively easy to be counterfeited," said Qiu, speaking at the fourth International Fair of Smart Cards, China 2001, taking place in Beijing.
"Besides, people's appearance may have changed a lot and is difficult to be identified from the picture if they have acquired the cards for a number of years."
By using encryption technology, it will be scarcely possible for unauthorized people to access information in the new card or to produce fake cards, Qiu said.
He said the new card will probably still contain a face portrait on its surface. Only when the authenticity of a person is in doubt will his or her fingerprints be checked.
The technology has been developing rapidly over the last few years in China. Similar cards have been widely used in telephones, banks, canteens and on buses.
But Qiu dismissed calls to see several different cards being combined into one, arguing that would not be practicable.
He said an ID card is a legal document which is different from any other card of the type which people regularly use to go shopping and buy meals.
(China Daily 06/12/2001)