People's Armed Police

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Chinese People's Armed Police Force (CAPF)
中国人民武装警察部队 (武警部队)
badge of People's Armed Police
Badge of the People's Armed Police
Active June 19, 1982
Country  People's Republic of China
Branch State Council and Central Military Commission
Type Gendarmerie
Role Preservation of Public Order and Security, Civil Defence, Reserves, Engineering Projects
Size 1.1 to 1.5 million
Part of People's Armed Police Headquarters
Garrison/HQ Beijing, Haidian District, China
Colours Red, Green
Wang Ning
Political Commissar

First Political Commissar: Guo Shengkun

Political Commissar: Sun Sijing
(Since December 2014)

The People's Armed Police (Chinese: 人民武装警察, Abbreviation: PAP), officially Chinese People's Armed Police Force (officially abbreviated CAPF; simplified Chinese: 中国人民武装警察部队; traditional Chinese: 中國人民武裝警察部隊; pinyin: Zhōngguó Rénmín Wǔzhuāng Jǐngchá Bùduì), is a Chinese law enforcement force primarily responsible for civilian policing and fire rescue duties in the People's Republic of China, as well as providing support to the PLA during wartime.

In contrast to public security police, PAP servicemen, also called as "Armed Policemen (武警战士)", wear olive green instead of the blue uniforms of the Public Security Department People's Police (公安机关人民警察, abbreviated 公安民警) and other branches of People's Police (人民警察, abbreviated 民警). From January 1, 2005 to July 31, 2007 the position had been renamed 'internal guard' (内卫) with arm insignia reflecting this change; new uniforms issued on August 1, 2007 carried the term for "China Armed Police" (中国武警).

The PAP is estimated to have a total strength of as high as 1.5 million, with over half its strength employed in its internal security units (Simplified Chinese: 内卫部队; pinyin: nèiwèi bùduì). The official estimate in 2006 was 660,000.[according to whom?]


The history of the People's Armed Police is as long as that of the People's Republic, and its origin can be traced back to the People's Liberation Army, which was responsible for both defending the nation from foreign invasions and internal security. Although the force was officially established in 1982, its constituent units stretch back to 1949.[1] After the establishment of the People's Republic of China, it was soon apparent that the different troops were required for the vastly different missions, and the domestic security functions had to be removed from the People's Liberation Army. As a result, the portion of People's Liberation Army responsible for internal security and other domestic police missions branched out to form the Public Security Army, under the administration of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China. Although under the Ministry of Public Security, the Public Security Army troops were not exactly public security police officers because in addition to regular police work, they were also tasked with secondary military tasks which was not part of the responsibility of regular police officers of the public security ministry.

After numerous name changes and reorganization, the PAP was created on June 19, 1982 by an amalgamation of the PLA's border control, internal security units (domestic 'internal guard' or and fire department), as well as from Ministry of Public Security units. The establishment of the People's Armed Police marked the effort to professionalize the internal security apparatus, as well as the absorption of numerous PLA demobilized personnel,[2] in the wake of a growing unrest.[3]

In 1995, the Ministry of Public Security was excluded from the control of the internal security forces of the People's Armed Police,[4] which in 2009 formally gained counter-protest responsibility.

Until 2013 the China Coast Guard formed part of the PAP, since then it reports directly to the Ministry of Public Security and the State Oceanic Administration, bringing along several coastal units under PAP command.


A People's Armed Police Guard in the second lowest rank, Private First Class in front of Tiananmen

The People's Armed Police's primary mission is internal security. The first law on the People's Armed Police, the Law on the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF), was passed in August 2009, giving it statutory authority to respond to riots, terrorist attacks or other emergencies.[5][6] Such units guard government buildings at all levels (including party and state organisations, foreign embassies and consulates), provide personal protection to senior government officials, provide security functions to public corporations and major public events, as well as counter-terrorism and handling of public emergencies.[7] Some units perform guard duty in civilian prisons and provide executioners for the state. The PAP also maintains tactical counter-terrorism (CT) units in the Immediate Action Unit (IAU), Snow Wolf Commando Unit (SWCU) and various Special Police Units (SPU).

The secondary mission of the PAP is external defence, and in times of war PAP internal security units can act as light infantry supporting the PLA in local defence missions.[8]


Wheeled APC of the People's Armed Police

The People's Armed Police has a dual command structure including the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the State Council through the Ministry of Public Security. By law however, the PAP is not part of the PLA.[9]

In terms of conducting public security operations and relevant capability building, the PAP General Headquarters is under the leadership and command of the Ministry of Public Security, and the PAPF units at and below the contingent level are under the leadership and command of the public security organs at the same level.[10]

Broadly speaking, the PAP is composed of eight services, which fall into three large categories. First, internal defence units are directly under the command of the PAP headquarters; the internal security units are lightly- or medium-equipped infantry forces (including local contingents and mobile divisions) and constitute the backbones of the PAP. The Internal Guard Corps includes several formations: 14 mobile divisions, 31 provincial and municipal internal security corps, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and military colleges, as well as special units.[11]

Second, the Ministry of Public Security and its local bureaus administer border and frontier defence, garrison and fire brigade units. Third, forest police units, gold mines units, hydroelectricity units, and transportation units are subject to the dual leadership of the PAP headquarters and the relevant government agency.[12]

Although their uniforms (olive green) and insignia are different from those of the PLA, PAP guards wear military-style uniforms and insignia that often leads to them being mistaken for soldiers.[13] Furthermore, due to its history with the PLA, the PAP has a similar rank structure to the PLA and also obeys its general regulations. PAP guards are also recruited at the same time and through the same procedures as PLA soldiers. However, the PAP has its own education and training system separate from the PLA. Like PLA, PAP also celebrates Army Day on August 1st of every year, and enjoys the same services as the PLA.

Top-level organization[edit]

The People's Armed Police General Headquarters is the leading and commanding organ that directs and administers the internal security force and forces guarding gold mine, forest, water and electricity, and communications, etc., and provides guidance to other forces subordinate to the PAP. The PAP has one commander-in-chief, one first political commissar (assumed concurrently by the Minister of Public Security), one political commissar, and several deputy commanders-in-chief and deputy political commissars.[10] The PAP has a general headquarters with departments responsible for logistical and political matters and several speciality headquarters; the latter ones report to the general headquarters but some also take orders and funds by other branches of the internal security apparatus, by government ministries and other organizations, such as State-owned corporations and local authorities.[14]

Territorial organization[edit]

The People's Armed Police internal security force is composed of contingents at the level of the province (autonomous region or municipality directly under the central government) and armed police divisions. Contingents (also named Divisions), Detachments and squadrons are established at the province, prefecture, and county levels, respectively; all units depend on the relevant party committee and government level. Using the national information infrastructure, the PAP has established a preliminary system of three-level integrated information networks, linking general headquarters with the grass-roots squadrons.[10]

The armed police divisions have regiments, battalions and companies in battle order, which are stationed in a number of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government. The forces guarding gold mines, forests, water and electricity supply, and communications have their own headquarters, which function as their leading and commanding organs. The PAPF General Headquarters has an educational institution directly under it. The contingent headquarters and the headquarters of the forces guarding gold mines, forests, water and electricity supply, and communications have elementary command colleges under them.[10]

PAP border security forces (Simplified Chinese: 边防部队; pinyin: biānfáng bùdùi) guard China's land and sea borders, as well as its ports and airports. Other units guard China's forests (Simplified Chinese: 森林部队; pinyin: sēnlín bùduì), gold mines (Simplified Chinese: 黄金部队; pinyin: huángjīn bùduì) and hydropower facilities (Simplified Chinese: 水电部队; pinyin: shuǐdiàn bùduì), as well as provide traffic-policing (Simplified Chinese: 交通部队; pinyin: jiāotōng bùduì), Fire Fighting (消防部队) and road construction services.[15] Among them, the Border Security and Fire Fighting are under the control by both Central Military Commission and Ministry of Public Security (which also controls the People's Police) while the other forces are under the control of CMC only. The border security force in particular, is also a law enforcement agency.

The "environmental" forces (gold mines, forestal and hydropower units) have a role into technical projects, while the highway specialty is in charge of highway maintenance and construction, as well as emergency rescue and disaster relief operations.[10]

Border security forces[edit]

People's Armed Police border security forces (Simplified Chinese: 边防部队; pinyin: biānfáng bùdùi) guard China's land and sea borders, as well as its ports and airports; this force is an armed law-enforcement body. Its main responsibilities are the administration of border and coastal public security, ports and border inspection and surveillance, performing patrols and surveillance activities in areas adjacent to Hong Kong and Macao, as well as patrols and surveillance activities along the demarcation line of the Beibu Gulf and the prevention of and crack-down on illegal and criminal acts in border and coastal areas, such as illegal border crossing, smuggling and drug trafficking.[7]

The border public security force deploys:[7]

  • 30 contingents in the Provinces of China (except Beijing);
  • 110 detachments in border and coastal prefectures and 20 marine police detachments in coastal prefectures;
  • 207 active-duty border inspection stations at open ports;
  • 310 groups in border and coastal counties;
  • 1,691 border police substations in border and coastal townships;
  • 46 frontier inspection stations on major border routes;
  • 113 mobile groups deployed in important sectors in border areas.

Special Units[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shambaugh, David L. (2004). Modernizing China's military: progress, problems, and prospects. University of California Press. p. 170.
  2. ^ Guo, Xuezhi (2012). China's Security State: Philosophy, Evolution, and Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 228–229. 
  3. ^ Guo, Xuezhi. China's Security State: Philosophy, Evolution, and Politics. p. 229. 
  4. ^ Tai Ming Cheung (1996). "Guarding China's Domestic Front Line: The People's Armed Police and China's Stability". The China Quarterly 146: 527. 
  5. ^ Top legislature passes armed police law. China Daily. August 27, 2009.
  6. ^ Wines, Michael (August 27, 2009). China Approves Law Governing Armed Police Force . The New York Times.
  7. ^ a b c "Armed Police Force". Ministry of National Defense. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  8. ^ Blasko, Dennis J. (2006). The Chinese Army today: tradition and transformation for the 21st century. Routledge. p. 87.
  9. ^ Blasko (2006), p. 18.
  10. ^ a b c d e "V. People's Armed Police Force". Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  11. ^ Guo, Xuezhi. China's Security State: Philosophy, Evolution, and Politics. p. 230. 
  12. ^ Tai Ming Cheung (1996). "Guarding China's Domestic Front Line: The People's Armed Police and China's Stability". The China Quarterly 146: 529. 
  13. ^ 栾, 尚林 (2005) 武警统一佩戴新式臂章胸标含义及使用范围 (The People's Armed Police new arm patches and badges and their uses). Xinhua.
  14. ^ Tai Ming Cheung (1996). "Guarding China's Domestic Front Line: The People's Armed Police and China's Stability". The China Quarterly 146: 528. 
  15. ^ Full Text: China's National Defense in 2006. Xinhua. December 29, 2006.

External links[edit]

. Kam C Wong, Research in Policing in China