Vehicle registration plates of China

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Blue PRC licence plates of the 1992 standard (August 2004 image). Last character of registration is not shown. This is an example of a vehicle registered to a Chinese citizen or entity.
Black PRC licence plates of the 1992 standard (August 2004 image). Last character of registration is not shown. This is an example of a vehicle registered to a foreign national, or a Chinese person who is not a citizen of Mainland China.

China issues vehicles licence plates (Chinese: 车辆号牌; pinyin: chēliàng hàopái) at its Vehicle Management Offices, under the administration of the Ministry of Public Security.

Hong Kong and Macau have their own administrations on licence plates. Vehicles from Hong Kong and Macau are required to apply for licence plates, usually from Guangdong, to travel on roads in Mainland China. Vehicles from the Mainland China have to apply for Hong Kong or Macau licence plates to enter those territories.

The number of registered cars, buses, vans, and trucks on the road in China reached 62 million in 2009, and is expected to exceed 200 million by 2020.[1]

Types[edit]

Common types[edit]

The current plates are of the 1992 standard, which consist of the one-character provincial abbreviation, a letter of the alphabet, and five numbers or letters of the alphabet (Ex. 沪A*12345; 京C*A1234; 苏A*1P234; 浙B*AB987; 粤Z*7C59港). Previously, all licence plates had used the five-number designation. As the number of motor vehicles grew, however, the number had to exceed what was the maximum previously allowable—90,000 or 100,000 vehicles. Therefore there had become a need to insert Latin letters into the licence plate to increase the number of possible combinations. This was first done in the bigger cities with only one prefix. Nanjing, for example, began the change with only the first number, which increased the number of possible combinations to 340,000 (with the exceptions of O & I, which cannot be printed without confusion with the numbers 0 & 1). Further changes allowed the first two places, or the second place alone on the plate to be letters, allowing 792,000 more combinations mathematically. More recently, cities have taken to having the third letter alone being a Latin letter, the rest numbers. The numbers are produced at random, and are computer-generated at the issuing office. Numbers with a sequence of 6s, 8s, or 9s are usually considered to be lucky, therefore special sequences like "88888" or "86888" can be purchased. (A previous licence plate system, with a green background and the full name of the province in Chinese characters, actually had a sequential numbering order, and the numbering system was eventually beset with corruption.)

Yellow plates are issued for larger vehicles, such as trucks, buses, and motorcycles. These licence plates usually have the Designate Area and Letter on top of the numbers, as opposed to being beside it. (In addition, they may have the licence number sprayed in large letters on the outside of the truck, or in more prominent places.) Blue plates, the most common sort, are issued for small or compact vehicles (except for motorcycles). Farm-use vehicles use a green background with white symbols. They do not follow the city designation described below. Instead, they start with the provincial one-symbol code followed by a two-digit number (e.g. 皖03 or 苏18). Since October 2007, black plates are no longer issued for vehicles belonging to foreigners, as this was "deemed discriminatory" and instead standard looking blue plates are now issued. However, foreigners still are issued a separate dedicated letter/number sequence to denote that they are a foreign owned/registered vehicle - e.g. in Beijing, the foreign owned plates are in the 京A #####, 京L B####, and 京L C#### sequence. The older black plates are still issued to those who are dual-use vehicles, i.e. those registered in both Mainland China and Hong Kong or Macau.

Police Service, Armed Police Force, and Military[edit]

Licence plates for China's Police Service, Armed Police Force, and Military are in a white background, with red and black text.

Police Service plates have a designated format of X·LLNNN·"" (X is the geographical abbreviation, N is a digit, and L is either a digit or a letter; "" means police and is coloured red). These plates are issued to traffic police, some patrol vehicles, court, and procuratorate vehicles.

Chinese People's Armed Police Force ("武警") uses the pinyin wujing abbreviation WJ and use the format WJNN-NNNNN.

The first two small letters behind the WJ are area prefixes:

  • WJ01-NNNNN. = Headquarters
  • WJ31-NNNNN. = Beijing
  • WJ14-NNNNN. = Shandong
  • WJ21-NNNNN. = Hainan

The Alphabet Numeral behind the area prefix shows the section of the Armed police:

  • WJ01-JNNNN. = Official Guards, Official and Diplomatic Escorts, Riot Police.
  • WJ01-BNNNN. = Border Police
  • WJ01-XNNNN. = Fire Police
  • WJ01-1NNNN. = If there are no Alphabet letters at all it stands for no particular section. Official Use Only.

Military vehicles previously had plates using a code of heavenly stems in red. After reorganization in 2004, military vehicles now use a more organized prefix. These licence plates use the format XL·NNNNN (X is a prefix, L is a letter).

The People's Liberation Army vehicle prefixes:

  • "" (Jūn; "Military")

Vehicles of the Central Military Commission
Vehicles of the Headquarters of People's Liberation Army
Vehicles of the PLA's units at Army-Grade or above. Deputy-Military-Region-Grade, Military-Region-Grade.

The Ground Force of PLA vehicle of the various military regions have their own prefixes:

The Navy of PLA vehicle prefixes:

  • "" (Haǐ)

The Air Force of PLA vehicle prefixes:

  • "" (Kōng)

Vehicles with government or military plates are not subject to the Road Traffic Safety Law of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国道路交通安全法); they may run red lights, drive in the wrong direction or weave in and out of traffic.[citation needed][2] Communist party officials and People's Liberation Army members are also exempt from paying road tolls and adhering to parking regulations.[3][4] According to Xinhua News Agency, "police officers are also reluctant to pull over drivers of military vehicles even if the drivers are breaking the law",[4][5] which is the reason behind an emerging trend in which individuals purchase counterfeit military registration plates to avoid being pulled over by police. Xinhua News Agency reported in 2008 that since July 2006, the government has confiscated over 4,000 fake military vehicles and 6,300 fake plates and has apprehended over 5,000 people belonging to criminal gangs; under Chinese law, those caught driving under fake registration plates are fined up to 2,000 RMB, and counterfeiters can be jailed for up to three years.[4][6]

Motorcycles[edit]

Motorcycle licence plates are nearly the same as that for ordinary vehicles, but are less in length and look more like an elongated square than a banner-like rectangle. There are two lines of text (province code and letter on the top, numbers on the bottom).

For qinqi or low-powered motorbikes, yellow licence plates are issued throughout.

Embassies and Consulates[edit]

Embassy and consulate vehicles have their own licence plate with a red character and six white numbers. Embassy plates have a black background (following the foreigner plate standard, as previously mentioned). Embassies use 使 (shǐ) (for 使馆, which means 'embassy') and are used only in Beijing. Consulates use (lǐng) (for 领事馆, which means 'consulate') and are used for representations outside Beijing. Numbers on embassy plates are formatted so that the first three digits represent the foreign entity/organization the vehicle is registered to while the last three digits are sequential, where 001 is (generally) the Ambassador's car, for example: 使 224 001 - is the car used by the Ambassador of the United States. Numbers 002 to 005 are usually reserved for official use and therefore have the comfort of the highest levels of diplomatic immunity.

In order to protect the privacy of foreign diplomats in the P.R. China, Beijing does not release information on embassies' vehicles, so it is possible that some data in the list of plate prefixes of embassies in Beijing below may not be correct.

Other types[edit]

Vehicles for use in automobile tests, vehicles for use in driving schools (examination and test-driving), and vehicles at airports all have their own separate licence plates.

For automobile tests, licence plates consist of black characters on a yellow background with the suffix shi (试 short in Chinese for ce shi or test). For driving schools, different plates apply for test-drive vehicles (jiaolian che) and examination vehicles (kaoshi che).

Airports have licence plates with white characters on a green background with the designation min hang (民航 Civilian Air Transportation). This shade of green is slightly lighter than the variant used on normal licence plates prior to 1992.

Cross-border with Hong Kong and Macau[edit]

Guangdong border crossing plate displayed on a vehicle below a standard Hong Kong plate.

Licence plates with a black background and the character 港 or 澳 in place of the last number are used for Hong Kong and Macau vehicles, respectively, when they engage in cross-border traffic to and from Mainland China. These plates often exist side by side with a local HK or Macau licence plate on the same car. See the section on Guangdong license plates.

Interim licence plates[edit]

Interim licence plates are a piece of paper to be affixed to the front of the vehicle's window, usually valid for 15 days.

Shortlived 2002 standard[edit]

For a short while in the summer of 2002, a new 2002 standard was instituted in several cities, including Beijing. They enabled number/alphabetical customisation. (The possible combinations were NNN-NNN, NNN-LLL and LLL-NNN, where N would be a number and L a letter. However, although the usage of "CHN", to designate China, was not permitted in the plates, that restriction, oddly enough, did not apply to the letters "PRC".) The VIN was also added to the new plates, and the plates were white, with a gradual blue tint at the bottom end of the plates. Black letters were used on the plate.

In late August 2002 new 2002 standard plates had their issuance temporarily interrupted, officially for technical reasons, but actually because some number/alphabetical combinations of a controversial nature in Mainland China were utilised. One of the biggest controversies was when a vehicle with plate number USA-911 was spotted in Beijing, causing an uproar as it was taken to be a reference to the September 11 attacks, and as such was criticized as being disrespectful to Americans. Equal uproars were created with such plates as PRC-001, and trademark violations were rife; the plate number IBM-001 was seen. The WTO acronym was also spotted in the plates. In a society that is still rather conservative in this topic, the plate SEX-001 was the source of yet another controversy. The number 250, an insult in spoken Chinese, was also spotted in some plates.

Possibly due to the controversies as described above, as of summer 2003, the new plates are no longer being issued. Old plates of the 2002 standard are not being recalled.

New 2007 Standard (GA36-2007)[edit]

The Ministry of Public Security has announced on October 30, 2007, that the 1992 vehicle license plate system will be overhauled on November 1, 2007.

Major Points of interest:

  • The current black license plates assigned to foreign-owned vehicles will be phased out. New vehicles will be issued "normal" blue license plates.
  • Two roman letters (not including O, or I, which could be confused with numerals) may be included among the last five places of the plate number.

Number plates issued in the 1992 standard will not be recalled but black plates will no longer be issued. Neither will plates issued to embassies be affected.

It is believed this is a China-wide standard. Many provinces and municipal cities have since introduced personalized number plates with different limitations. It is generally possible to choose from several alphabetical-numerical combination and personalize some of the digits.

Official Beijing Traffic Bureau announcement (Chinese)

List of prefixes[edit]

The following lists all licence plate prefixes in use in the People's Republic of China, divided into four sections: municipalities, provinces, autonomous regions and others.

This list might not be up to date, complete or accurate. Please amend as you see fit.

Municipalities[edit]

Beijing[edit]

Škoda Octavia with Beijing licence plates.

The initial character on licence plates issued in Beijing is: (Pinyin: Jīng)

  • 京C, 京E, 京F, 京H, 京J, 京K, 京L, 京M, 京Q - Urban area
  • 京B - Taxis
  • 京G - Suburbs
  • 京N, 京P, 京Y - Suburbs and urban area
  • 京A, 京LB, 京LC - foreigner or foreign company owned vehicle
  • 京O·A - Ministry of Public Security
  • 京V - Central Guard Bureau of Beijing Garrison Military License

This license plate is different from the other civilian license with blue background. It's word and figures on white background. As a matter of fact, it is military license at all, and has an unique characteristic.
There is only one garrison in Mainland China - Beijing Garrison (Beijing WeiShuQu; "北京卫戍区"), other guarding area called "XX Guarding Area" (XX JingBeiQu; "XX警备区"). Chinese simplified character "卫" (one of "北京卫戍区"/Beijing Garrison) has the same pronunciation with the "V". So, the "京" (Jing) and the "V", their pronunciation is Jing Wei, Chinese is "京卫", it is a Chinese abbreviation of "北京卫戍区" (Beijing Garrison).
1) General license for the red word "京" and black 'V' along with figures.
2) Crucial vehicle for the red word "京" and 'V' with black figures.

Chongqing[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Chongqing is: (Yú)

Shanghai[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Shanghai is: (Hù)

  • 沪A, 沪B, 沪D, 沪E, 沪F, 沪G, 沪H — Urban area.
  • 沪C — Suburbs
  • 沪O — Police vehicles

Tianjin[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Tianjin is: (Jīn)

  • 津A, 津B, 津C, 津F, 津G, 津H, 津I, 津J, 津K, 津L, 津M, 津N — General Issues
  • 津E — Taxis

Provinces[edit]

Anhui[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Anhui is: (Wǎn)

Fujian[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Fujian is: (Mǐn)

Gansu[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Gansu is: (Gān)

Guangdong[edit]

Black PRC licence plates of the 1992 standard for vehicles from Hong Kong that are allowed to cross into Mainland China.

The initial character on licence plates issued in Guangdong is: (Yuè)

Guizhou[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Guizhou is: (Guì)

Hainan[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Hainan is: (Qióng)

Hebei[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Hebei is: (Jì)

Heilongjiang[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Heilongjiang is: (Hēi)

Henan[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Henan is: (Yù)

Hubei[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Hubei is: (È)

Hunan[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Hunan is: (Xiāng)

Jiangsu[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Jiangsu is: (Sū)

Jiangxi[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Jiangxi is: (Gàn)

Jilin[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Jilin is: (Jí)

Liaoning[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Liaoning is: (Liáo)

Qinghai[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Qinghai is: (Qīng)

Shaanxi[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Shaanxi is: (Shǎn)

Shandong[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Shandong is: (Lǔ)

Shanxi[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Shanxi is: (Jìn)

Sichuan[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Sichuan is: (Chuān)

Yunnan[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Yunnan is: (Yún)

Zhejiang[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Zhejiang is: (Zhè)

Autonomous regions[edit]

Guangxi[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Guangxi is: (Guì)

Inner Mongolia[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Inner Mongolia is: (Měng)

Ningxia[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Ningxia is: (Níng)

Tibet[edit]

Initial character of licence plates used in Tibet is: (Zàng)

Xinjiang[edit]

The initial character on licence plates issued in Xinjiang is: (Xīn)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Scanned images of GA36-2007 (License plate of motor vehicle of China)