One summer 10 years ago, a soldier of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) sacrificed his life to rescue people from the floods of the Yangtze River.
Li Xiangqun, who died at 20, is a hero of the PLA.
A decade later, the PLA company where Li once served is also known for its new approaches in military training - brought about in part by the university graduates that form part of its recruits.
Its officers have also reportedly introduced a wider range of modern concepts to help drill young soldiers, most born in the 1980s and some, in 1990.
Military service in the country is voluntary and the army is mostly made up of middle school graduates and officers who have received additional training at military academies.
College graduates still form a relatively small part of the military.
In recent years, however, official figures show that an increasing number of applicants from universities nationwide are joining the PLA, which celebrates its 81st anniversary today, while more educated recruits are getting enrolled.
Zhao Yangyang is the first university graduate to have enrolled in Li Xiangqun's company.
Before joining the army, he was a student of Wuhan Science & Technology University. His fellow soldiers have dubbed him the "innovation expert".
Innovation is a concept Zhao insisted on, his troops say.
During a two-year stint in the army, Zhao is said to have proposed several innovative and valuable approaches to training that helped the fitness and preparedness of troops.
Zhao was bored and frustrated by the training he encountered when he first joined the army.
"Getting up early and doing some of the exercises that officers required was exhausting," Zhao said recently.
He suspected other recruits felt the same way and suggested new ways of training that stimulated the interest of the trainees.
His officers reportedly accepted his suggestions.
Fast-paced music was added to activities, sport and games were part of the program, and physical fitness sessions turned into enjoyment for soldiers, Zhao said.
The changes he helped start led to more improvements in soldiery.
Zhao's contributions are said to be exemplary of the positive impact that soldiers with higher education have made in the armed forces.
Fan Weike, a commander in Li's unit, said it is now necessary to make considerable adjustments to the training of soldiers that include focusing on psychological strength.
Emphasis is also being placed on aspects that include combat mobility, observation and technological skills, he said.
The army is also reportedly attaching more importance on improving soldiers' emotional quotient, or EQ, to help in communication.
To that effect, army officers are spending more time communicating with troops, finding more about their lives and about views on matters.
For troops who face problems in their family affairs, officers and commanders also offer support and help to ease such burdens.
"In a traditional military, a soldier is merely a combatant, but a modern soldier must also be able to gather intelligence and mark out targets," Fan said.
"The emergence of such soldiers will greatly improve the battlefield capabilities of our troops and increase the effectiveness of the army."
The PLA should enhance military training, strengthen the quality of human resources and develop high-tech equipment to ensure its capability of handling different threats, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said yesterday at a reception celebrating the 81st anniversary of the PLA's foundation.
China will adhere to a defense-oriented military policy and will be more open to military-to-military exchanges with other countries, Liang said.
Source: China Daily