What will the lonely hearts of the People's Liberation Army
Rigid restrictions on internet usage imposed this month on
the 2.3 million-strong Chinese armed services are sure to
cramp the already lackluster social lives of the
predominantly young, male force.
Online dating was given the boot, along with blogs, personal
websites and visits to internet cafes.
It may seem harsh and out of touch, particularly for troops
posted in remote regions of China who have little contact
with the civilian world. But military experts said restraints
are necessary to avoid comprising security for a Chinese
military that prizes secrecy.
"Some soldiers leaked military secrets when chatting online,
for instance, giving away troop locations. Certainly a large
amount of secrets were revealed this way and the regulation
has just blocked the hole," said Ni Lexiong, a military
expert at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.
Plus, Ni said, "matchmaking for soldiers can be conducted in
more serious ways, such as through introductions from
families, friends, or their work units."
China is just the latest country to wrestle with the sticky
issue of internet freedoms for its military, trying to find a
balance between the demands of Web-savvy troops, who as
civilians were used to sharing personal details online, and
the need to maintain security.
After years of back and forth, the US Department of Defence
now promotes use of social media by everyone from privates on
the front line to generals at the Pentagon as a way of
spreading its message.
For example, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint
chiefs of staff, has 20,000 followers on Twitter.
Most other countries fall somewhere in between.
"Cyberspace has been a gray area. This is a tricky issue
because it straddles both personal and professional space,"
said Ho Shu Huang, an associate research fellow at the
Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at Singapore's
Nanyang Technological University.
"The military is a reflection of society and how it responds
will be a result of that. So in more closed societies, it's
easier for the military to say, 'Don't do anything. Don't
talk online. That's that,'" he said.
Countries such as Britain and Israel allow troops to post
personal information online, as long as it does not
compromise military operations. The open approach has not
always worked for Israel.
The Israeli military scrapped a raid on a West Bank village
earlier this year after a soldier revealed the time and
location of the operation on his Facebook page.
In 2008, a soldier attached to an elite Israeli intelligence
unit was sentenced to 19 days in jail after uploading a
photograph taken on his base to Facebook.