China will begin issuing new computer readable ID cards to citizens as early as March.
The new ID cards will be issued first in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Changsha, according to officials with the Ministry of Public Security.
The ministry expects that the nationwide replacement program will be fully completed by the end of 2008 when a total of one billion ID cards will have been given out.
China started to issue ID cards in 1984. The previous household registration system, set up in 1958, specified where each Chinese person should live. If they moved, they lost the right to free education, health care and a job.
The system is considered outdated as millions of Chinese have left their homes to find work.