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
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).
|U.S. Army equivalent|
(NATO rank code)
|Lieutenant General||Lieutenant General|
|Major General||Major General|
|Lieutenant Colonel||Lieutenant Colonel|
|First Lieutenant, Lieutenant||First Lieutenant|
|Second Lieutenant||Second Lieutenant|
|Officer Cadet||Officer Cadet|
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)
Yi Ji Jun Shi Zhang
|Chief Sergeant Class 1||Command Sergeant Major |
Er Ji Jun Shi Zhang
|Chief Sergeant Class 2||Sergeant Major |
San Ji Jun Shi Zhang
|Chief Sergeant Class 3||Master Sergeant |
Si Ji Jun Shi Zhang
|Chief Sergeant Class 4||Sergeant First Class |
|Staff Sergeant |
Shang Deng Bing
|Private First Class||Private First Class |
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 green (red is now only used in ceremonial occasions). Ranks of the People's Liberation Navy also correspond, except with dark blue fimbriations.
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