Stars and bars may again grace the uniforms of Chinese soldiers as the government announced Friday it had set up a committee to study restoring ranks to the People's Liberation Army.

The late Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung abolished ranks more than 20 years ago, calling them a vestige of hierarchical, bourgeois society.Zhang Husheng, director of the Information Bureau of the General Office of the Standing Committee of China's parliament, said today the committee will also take up proposals to confer medals on retired soldiers and confirm ranks held in 1955-65, before Mao did away with the system.

Zhang was speaking at the first news briefing ever held by the Standing Committee. He said it was part of efforts to "increase openness" of government proceedings.

The 155-member Standing Committee handles day-to-day affairs of the 3,000-member National People's Congress, China's parliament, which hold only one session annually. The committee is meeting for the second time since the seventh plenary session was convened in March.

Zhang said the agenda will be led by a series of proposals submitted by the Central Military Commission, headed by senior leader Deng Xiaoping.

Among the proposals is one that defines the roles of officers in the People's Liberation Army.

Deng has repudiated Mao's concept of an egalitarian, proletariat army and has sought to bring back ranks as part of efforts to create a more modern and efficient fighting force.