Ranks of the People's Liberation Army

The People's Liberation Army has not always used ranks or insignia. In common with the practice of the Red Army at the time of its founding in 1927, neither were used until 1955 when a system of ranks was established. As a result of the Cultural Revolution, ranks were abolished in May 1965. After the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, reforms in the PLA began to be made to professionalize the armed forces once more. The 1984 Military Service Law provided for the resumption of rank, but disagreements on what ranks were to be used and who would receive them caused the revival of rank to be delayed until 1988.

Contents

Ranks of officers

The insignia used by officers in the period 1955-1965 were similar in style to those used by the military of the Soviet Union at the time, with the primary differences being the existence of an additional field officer rank, and the insignia of the highest general officer rank being four stars instead of one larger star.

The current system of officer ranks and insignia is a revision of the ranks and insignia established in 1955. The 1955-1965 marshal officer ranks of Yuan Shuai (Marshal) and Da Yuan Shuai (Grand Marshal) were not revived. The general officer ranks (Jiang) were revised by the addition of semi-circular wreath at the bottom of the insignia and by a change in the name of the highest general officer rank from Da Jiang (General of the Army) to Yi Ji Shang Jiang (literally: First Class Senior General). This highest rank in the new system was never held and was abolished in 1994. The field officer (Xiao) and company officer (Wei) ranks were the same in title and insignia except that highest company-level officer rank of Da Wei in the 1955-1965 system was not included in the revived ranks. The final difference between the two systems is that in 1955-1965 there existed a warrant officer rank, Zhun Wei, which was not incorporated in the revived rank system, while new system had a rank for officer cadets, Xue Yuan. Despite being the rank below Shao Wei in both systems, the insignia have no similarities.

Officer rank names are usually not translated literally, but rather to a corresponding rank system. This can lead to different translations being used depending on the system chosen for the correspondences. The 1955-1965 system, with its greater number of officer ranks, is usually translated using the Soviet rank system of that era, while the modern officer ranks are usually given a NATO rank correspondence. For example, the non-literal translation used for the rank of Shang Jiang (literally: Senior General) depends on whether one is comparing it to Soviet or Russian ranks (Colonel General) or to British or American ranks (General).

Name Usual translation
(Alternate translation)
U.S. Army equivalent
(NATO rank code)
一级上将
Yi Ji Shang Jiang
(abolished 1994;
rank never held)
First Class General
(General of the Army)
General of the Army
(Honorary)
上将
Shang Jiang
General,
Colonel General
General
(OF-10)
中将
Zhong Jiang
Lieutenant General Lieutenant General
(OF-9)
少将
Shao Jiang
Major General Major General
(OF-8)
大校
Da Xiao
Senior Colonel
(Brigadier)
Brigadier General
(OF-7)
上校
Shang Xiao
Colonel Colonel
(OF-6)
中校
Zhong Xiao
Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonel
(OF-5)
少校
Shao Xiao
Major Major
(OF-4)
大尉
Da Wei (until 1998)
Senior Captain Captain
(OF-3)
上尉
Shang Wei
Captain Captain
(OF-3)
中尉
Zhong Wei
First Lieutenant First Lieutenant
(OF-2)
少尉
Shao Wei
Second Lieutenant Second Lieutenant
(OF-1)
学员
Xue Yuan
Officer Cadet Officer Cadet
(OF-D)

Ranks of enlisted personnel

The current system of enlisted ranks and insignia dates from 2009.

Name Usual translation U.S. Army equivalent
(NATO rank code)
一级军士长
Yi ji jun shi zhang
Chief NCO First Class Command Sergeant Major
(OR-9)
二级军士长
er ji jun shi zhang
Chief NCO Second Class Sergeant Major
(OR-9)
三级军士长
San Ji jun shi zhang
Chief NCO Third Class Master Sergeant
(OR-8)
四级军士长
si ji jun shi zhang
Chief NCO Sergeant First Class
(OR-7)
上士
Shang Shi
Senior NCO Staff Sergeant
(OR-6)
中士
Zhong Shi
NCO Sergeant
(OR-5)
下士
Xia Shi
Junior NCO Corporal
(OR-4)
上等兵
Shang Deng Bing
Private First Class
(Senior Private)
Private First Class
(OR-3)
列兵
Lie Bing
Private Private
(OR-2)

Ranks in other Chinese military bodies

The People's Liberation Army Air Force generally has the same names, position and ranks as the People's Liberation Army Land Force, however, and their insignia correspond except Air Force ranks have light blue fimbriations instead of red (though it appears that the colour for the army has now changed to green, and red is only used in ceremonial occasions). Ranks of the People's Liberation Navy also correspond, except with dark blue fimbriations.

See also

  • Comparative military ranks

References


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