Vehicle registration plates of China
China, officially the People's Republic of 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 Mainland China have to apply for Hong Kong or Macau licence plates to enter those territories. Taiwan, on the other hand, also has plates administered by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MoTC) in the Republic of China.
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 license 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.)
License plates have different formats that are issued to different vehicles:
|Small/Compact Vehicles (New Energy)||京A·D12345/京A·F12345||Black lettering on Gradient green|
|Large Vehicles||渝F·1033V (Front)
渝 · F
|Large Vehicles (New Energy)||京A·12345D/京A·12345F||Black lettering, yellow for the province code, green for the rest|
|Municipal Vehicle (i.e. forbidden to leave city limits)||皖 · 01
|Coach car (in driving schools)||京A·0001学||Black-on-yellow|
|Temporary license (intra-province)||沪K·9PW50||Black on patterned light blue (paper)|
|Temporary license (cross-province)||鲁A·40000||Black on patterned brown (paper)|
|Prototypes||沪A·1234超||Black on patterned light blue (paper)|
|Small Motorcycles (50cc or below)||54321 (Front)
沪 · C
|Large Motorcycles (Above 50cc)||Same as above||Black-on-yellow|
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
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警 (X is the geographical abbreviation, N is a digit, and L is either a digit or a letter; "警" means police and is coloured red, but the separator dot is no longer a circle, rather, a square). 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. = Firefighter (Fire Department)
- WJ01-1NNNN. = Headquarters
Another pattern is the WJ P NNNNL pattern, where P is the provincial code, and L denotes the first letter in "pinyin" of the branch of Armed Police service. e.g. WJ 沪 1234X = a vehicle for firefighting use in Shanghai
Military vehicles previously had plates using a code of heavenly stems in red. After reorganization in 2004, again in 2013 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 2013:
Military vehicles can be identified by having a red letter from the alphabet *V
- V PLA Central Military Commission
- K PLA Air Force
- H PLA Navy
- B PLA Beijing Military
- VA PLA Central Military Commission
- VB PLA Political Works
- VC PLA Logistical Support
- VD PLA Equipment Development
The People's Liberation Army vehicle prefixes 2004:
- "军" (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.
- "北" (Beǐ) Vehicles of the Beijing Military Region of Ground Force)
- "沈" (Shěn); Vehicles of the Shenyang Military Region of Ground Force)
- "兰" (Lán); Vehicles of the Lanzhou Military Region of Ground Force)
- "成" (Chéng); Vehicles of the Chengdu Military Region of Ground Force)
- "济" (Jǐ); Vehicles of the Jinan Military Region of Ground Force)
- "南" (Nán); Vehicles of the Nanjing Military Region of Ground Force)
- "广" (Guǎng); Vehicles of the Guangzhou Military Region of Ground Force)
- "海" (Haǐ)
- "空" (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. Communist party officials and People's Liberation Army members are also exempt from paying road tolls and adhering to parking regulations. 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", 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.
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 qingqi or low-powered motorbikes, blue licence plates are issued throughout.
Embassies and consulates
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 广 (shǐ) (for 使馆, which means 'embassy') and are used only in Beijing. Consulates use 领 (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: 广 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.
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
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
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
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)
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.
For some provinces it is possible to have a letter occupying the last place of the combination, possibly to increase combination numbers.
New Energy vehicles license plates
On November 21, 2016, the MPS announced the New Energy vehicles license plates are introduced. They will instituted in Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuxi, Jinan, and Shenzhen since December 1, 2016. The New Energy vehicles license plates consist of the one-character provincial abbreviation, a letter of the alphabet, and six numbers or letters of the alphabet, which "D" means Electric car, "F" means other types of New Energy vehicles. For Small New Energy vehicle license plate, this alphabet is located in the first, and Large New Energy vehicles is located in the last.
List of prefixes
- This list might not be up to date, complete or accurate. Please amend as you see fit.
- 京A(Color is Yellow)-buses
- 京C, 京E, 京F, 京H, 京J, 京K, 京L, 京M, 京P, 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
- 渝A — Urban area
- 渝B — Urban area
- 渝C—Yongchuan District, Jiangjin, Hechuan, Tongnan County, Tongliang County, Bishan County, Dazu County, Qijiang County, Rongchang County
- 渝F—Wanzhou District, Liangping County, Chengkou County, Wushan County, Wuxi County, Zhong County, Kai County, Fengjie County, Yunyang County
- 渝G—Fuling District, Nanchuan, Dianjiang County, Fengdu County, Wulong County
- 渝H—Qianjiang District, Shizhu Tujia Autonomous County, Xiushan Tujia and Miao Autonomous County, Youyang Tujia and Miao Autonomous County, Pengshui Miao and Tujia Autonomous County
- 沪A, 沪B, 沪D, 沪E, 沪F, 沪G, 沪H, 沪J, 沪K, 沪L, 沪M, 沪N — Urban area and suburbs.
- 沪C — Suburbs, not allowed to enter the urban area(i.e. not allowed to travel within the Outer Ring).
- 沪R — Chongming Island, Changxing Island, Hengsha Island, not allowed to leave the places above.
For the third character of the license plates (with 4 digits following):
- Z — New energy vehicles (except licenses begin with 沪A and 沪C).
- M, N, U to X — Taxis.
- Y — Vehicles for rent, owned by car renting operators.
- 津A, 津B, 津C, 津F, 津G, 津H, 津I, 津J, 津K, 津L, 津M, 津N, 津P, 津Q, 津R — General Issues
- 津E — Taxis
- 闽K — Provincial-level agencies, Pingtan Island
- 闽O — Police vehicles
- 甘N—Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture
- 甘P—Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
- 粤A—Guangzhou (粤AQ—Panyu)
- 粤E—Foshan (粤EV—Gaoming, 粤ET—Sanshui)
- 粤H—Zhaoqing & Gaoyao (粤HL—Sihui)
- 粤O—Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department
- 粤X—Shunde (District of Foshan)
- 粤Y—Nanhai (District of Foshan)
- 粤Z—Hong Kong & Macau: required only of vehicles that go in and out of Mainland China. Hong Kong and Macau issue registration plates on their own. The registration number has 4 alphanumerics, suffixed with either 港 (for Hong Kong) or 澳 (for Macau).
- 琼E—Yangpu Economic Development Zone
- A "Z" is further appended to taxis, for example "冀AZ1234".
- A "T" is further appended to taxis, for example "冀BT1234".
- 黑L — Area of the Sungari River (now considered part of Harbin)
- 黑P—Daxing'anling Prefecture
- 鄂Q—Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
- 湘P—Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
- 吉B—Jilin City
- 吉H—Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
- 辽O—Police Vehicles
- 青C—Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
- 青D—Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
- 青E—Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
- 青F—Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
- 青G—Gyêgu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
- 青H—Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
- 陕A T — Taxis in Xi'an
- 陕A U — Taxis in Xi'an
- 陕A V — Provincial-level agencies
- 陕V — Yangling Gaoxin Agricultural Zone
- 鲁O—Local government
- 鲁U—Qingdao Extra (for taxis, tour buses, etc.)
- 鲁V—Weifang Extra
- 鲁W—Jinan Extra
- 川U—Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture
- 川V—Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
- 川W—Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture
- 云E—Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture
- 云G—Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture
- 云H—Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
- 云K—Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture
- 云L—Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture
- 云N—Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture
- 云Q—Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture
- 云R—Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
- 浙O — Black license plates belonging to cars registered to foreign enterprises
- 蒙F—Hinggan League
- 蒙H—Xilin Gol League
- 蒙J—Ulaan Chab
- 蒙L—Bayan Nur
- 蒙M—Alxa League
- 苏C—Shannan Prefecture
- 苏E—Naqu Prefecture
- 苏F—Ngari Prefecture
- 新B—Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture
- 新E—Börtala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture
- 新F—Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture
- 新M—Bayin'gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture
- 新N—Aksu Prefecture
- 新P—Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture
- "How Many Cars are There in China?". ChinaAutoWeb.com.
- Fauna, 1 December 2009, Caught: Fake Chinese Military Vehicle License Plates, ChinaSMACK
- Wu Zhong, 21 November 2007, Drivers with a license to kill in China, Asia Times
- 12 April 2008, Bogus Military Vehicles And Plates Seized, Sky News
- 2008-04-11, Military Cracks Down on Fake License Plates, Xinhua
- 16 June 2009, Chinese army, police seize thousands of fake military license plates, IDs, People's Daily
- "新能源汽车专用号牌将在5城市试点启用". Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China. 2016-11-21. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
- Scanned images of GA36-2007 (License plate of motor vehicle of China)