Ranks of the People's Liberation Army

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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.

Ranks of officers[edit]

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 Yuánshuài (Marshal) and Dà Yuánshuài (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 Dàjiàng (General of the Army) to Yī Jí Shàngjiàng (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 Dàwèi 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, Zhǔnwèi, which was not incorporated in the revived rank system, while new system had a rank for officer cadets, Xuéyuán. Despite being the rank below Shaowei 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 Shàngjiàng (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)
上将 上将 General General
中将 中将 Lieutenant General Lieutenant General
少将 少将 Major General Major General
大校 大校 Senior Colonel
Brigadier General
上校 上校 Colonel Colonel
中校 中校 Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonel
少校 少校 Major Major
上尉 上尉 Captain Captain
中尉 中尉 First Lieutenant, Lieutenant First Lieutenant
少尉 少尉 Second Lieutenant Second Lieutenant
学员 学员 Officer Cadet Officer Cadet

Ranks of enlisted personnel[edit]

The current system of enlisted ranks and insignia dates from 2009.[1]

Name Usual translation U.S. Army equivalent
(NATO rank code)
一级军士长 一级军士长 Chief Sergeant Class 1 Command Sergeant Major
二级军士长 二级军士长 Chief Sergeant Class 2 Sergeant Major
三级军士长 三级军士长 Chief Sergeant Class 3 Master Sergeant
四级军士长 四级军士长 Chief Sergeant Class 4 Sergeant First Class
上士 上士 Staff Sergeant
(Senior Sergeant)
Staff Sergeant
中士 中士 Sergeant Sergeant
下士 下士 Corporal
(Junior Sergeant)
上等兵 上等兵 Private First Class Private First Class
列兵 列兵 Private Private

Ranks in other Chinese military bodies[edit]

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 green (red is now only used in ceremonial occasions). Ranks of the People's Liberation Navy also correspond, except with dark blue fimbriations, but now only worn with the dress white uniform as only sleeve insignia are used in the dress blue uniform.

See also[edit]