Ranks of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force

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. The following ranks and their respective insignia shown are those used by the People's Liberation Army Ground Force.

1955-65 Ranking System

The insignia used by officers in the period 1955-1965 by the PLA Ground Force were similar in style to those used by the Soviet Army 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 unlike the one large star used starting 1963. The NCO insignia of that period showed Japanese influence with the use of stars on the collars with the specialty badge on the side. While general duties officers wore the shoulder board pattern shown below (gold and red), technical service officers sported white and red shoulder boards with their rank insignia.

Rank category Rank Shoulder board insignia Collar insignia
Marshals Grand Marshal of the PRC
Marshal of the PRC
General officers General of the Army
Colonel General
Lieutenant General
Major General
Field grade officers Senior Colonel
Lieutenant Colonel
Unit grade officers Senior Captain
Second Lieutenant
Cadet officers Cadet officer
NCOs Staff Sergeant No shoulder insignia
Privates Private First Class

Current Ranking System

PLAGF Officers

The current system of officer ranks and insignia is a revision of the ranks and insignia established in 1955, which were used starting 1988. 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 General General
中将 Lieutenant General Lieutenant General
少将 Major General Major General
大校 Senior Colonel Brigadier General
上校 Colonel Colonel
中校 Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonel
少校 Major Major
上尉 Captain Captain
中尉 First Lieutenant, Lieutenant First Lieutenant
少尉 Second Lieutenant Second Lieutenant
学员 Officer Cadet Officer Cadet

PLAGF Enlisted Personnels

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 Chief Sergeant Class 1 Command Sergeant Major
二级军士长 Chief Sergeant Class 2 Sergeant Major
三级军士长 Chief Sergeant Class 3 Master Sergeant
四级军士长 Chief Sergeant Class 4 Sergeant First Class
上士 Staff Sergeant
(Senior Sergeant)
Staff Sergeant
中士 Sergeant Sergeant
下士 Corporal
(Junior Sergeant)
上等兵 Private First Class Private First Class
列兵 Private Private

Other Military Branches

The People's Liberation Army Air Force generally has the same names, position and ranks as the People's Liberation Army Ground Force, however their insignia correspond except Air Force ranks have light blue fimbriations instead of green (red is now only used in ceremonial occasions) and have Air Force prefixed with their rank.

Ranks of the People's Liberation Army 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 only for officers with ratings retaining the shoulder board insignia.

See also


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