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The People's Republic of China

China or Zhōngguó (中國) is the second-largest nation by land area as well as the world's most populous country. Today known as the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国) or PRC, this region has been occupied by humans since at least 11,000 BCE and produced one of the world's most ancient civilizations. China also has one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Chinese tradition holds that the first imperial dynasty, the Xia (夏朝), was established around 2070 BCE. This was followed by the Shang Dynasty (商朝 - 1600-1046 BCE), and the Zhou Dynasty (周朝 - 1046-256 BCE) - the latter being sub-divided into two periods, the Western and Eastern Zhou. The latter part of the Zhou (771-476 BCE) is often called the Warring States period, referring to a general era of warfare and regional shifting that took place between seven major states: Qin, Han, Wei, Zhao, Qi, Chu and Yan. The state of Qin was ultimately successful in consolidating power, and thus in 221 began the dynastic rule of the Qin over all of China, and the beginning of what is known as the Imperial period of Chinese history. It is during this Qin period that considerable portions of the Great Wall (万里长城) were built.

The Qin dynasty (秦朝) was followed by that of the Han (汉朝/漢朝), lasting from 206 BCE to 220 CE. This was succeeded in turn by a period known as the Three Kingdoms of Wei (魏), Shu (蜀), and Wu (吳), after which the Jin Dynasty (晉朝 - 265-420 CE) was established. Another period of civil war and unrest lasted from 420 to 589 CE, and is known as the Southern and Northern Dynasties period (南北朝). Although an era of warfare and strife, this period also saw a flourishing of arts and culture, significant advancement in technology, and the spreading of Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism throughout China.

The Sui (隋) Dynasty was a short-lived era (581–618 CE) that saw the conquest of Vietnam, as well as costly but unsuccessful military campaigns against the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo. This period was followed by the Tang Dynasty (唐朝), considered a golden age of cosmopolitan culture and a period of progress and stability. Chinese culture had considerable influence at this time over Vietnam, Korea and Japan, and many significant advances were made in engineering, literature, printing, medicine, religion and philosophy. Although lasting from 618–907 CE, the dynasty ultimately collapsed after a series of rebellions and natural disasters, leaving the region in relative chaos.

Following the demise of the Tang Dynasty, an era known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (五代十国) lasted from 907–960/979 CE. As the name implies, this was characterized by the establishment of ten small kingdoms and five small dynasties, each of which consolidated its power only in small portions of the country. This period was succeeded by the Song Dynasty (宋朝 - 960-1279 CE), another golden age that saw the establishment of the first permanent Chinese naval force, as well as the first distribution of paper money in human history. This era experienced a flourishing of artistic and philosophical pursuits, a revival of traditional Confucian principles, and a population that nearly doubled to 10 million.

During the 12th century, the Mongol Empire began encroaching further and further into Chinese territory, gradually assuming greater military control. This culminated in the establishment of a Yuan (大元) Dynasty by Kublai Khan in 1271, which ultimately controlled all of China until 1368 CE. During this warring period, the Chinese population was reduced from 120 millions to only 60 millions. As Mongol military power began to wane, the Ming Dynasty or Great Ming (大明) was established in 1368, beginning another golden era of prosperity, expansion and a flourishing of art and culture. This period also saw the Chinese capital moved to Beijing.

After control of Beijing was lost during a peasant revolt in 1644, Ming forces allied themselves with those of the Manchu. Control of the city was recovered, and Beijing became the capital of the Manchu Qing Dynasty or Great Qing (大清), the last imperial dynasty of China. This lengthy era saw the First (1839–42) and Second Opium Wars (1856–60) with France and Britain, following which control of Hong Kong was ceded to the British. From 1856–60 the First Sino-Japanese War took place, which resulted in the loss of Chinese influence over Korea and the cession of Taiwan to Japan. This era also saw several periods of internal unrest during the 1850s and 1860s, the Northern Chinese Famine of 1876–79 (in which as many as 13 millions may have died), and the beginning of a great emigration of Chinese to the Americas, Australia, South Africa and Southeast Asia.

The Xinhai Revolution of 1911–12 brought an end to the Qing dynasty and established the Republic of China, established by Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (the KMT or Nationalist Party). Although regional control was wrested from various warlords by Chiang Kai-shek in the 1920s, the Nationalist armed forces were unable to prevent political division from occurring as the Communists rapidly gained popularity, leading to a Chinese Civil War (1927-1950). By the time of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), an uneasy alliance existed between Nationalist and Communist forces. This war saw as many as 20 million Chinese deaths at the hands of the Japanese, including as many as 200,000 in the city of Nanjing alone.

Following the Japanese surrender at the end of the Second World War, Taiwan came under administrative control of the Republic of China and hostilities between the Nationalists and Communists resumed. These continued until 1949, by which time the Communist Party was in control of most of the mainland and the Nationalists retreated to consolidate their power on Taiwan (Republic of China). In October 1949, the new People's Republic of China was founded with Mao Zedong as its first Chairman.

The Chinese armed forces are known collectively as the People's Liberation Army (中国人民解放军), the largest armed force in the world. The PLA consists of the People's Liberation Army Ground Forces (about 1.6 million personnel), People's Liberation Army Navy or PLAN (consisting of three major fleets), People's Liberation Army Air Force or PLAAF (organized into seven regional air Forces), and the Second Artillery Corps (the PLA strategic missile forces). Special troops within the PLA include People's Liberation Army Special Forces (中国特种部队) as well as three complete Airborne Divisions under the Air Force.

National law enforcement falls under the jurisdiction of the Chinese People's Armed Police Force (中国人民武装警察部队), or CAPF, with approximately 1.5 million personnel that include border security forces, special installation and national resource guard units, fire fighting units, and special operations forces.

Camouflage Patterns of the Chinese Armed Forces

  • Sources indicate the first style camouflage introduced for the PLA (People's Liberation Army) was a four-color disruptive design having black, mid-brown and moss green disruptive shapes on pale green background. Coloration and shapes suggest this may have been a crude attempt at copying the British Army DPM camouflage pattern, possibly from photographs. This pattern dates to the mid-1970s, and would have been limited to use by sappers, commandos and airborne troops.


  • The first style Type 81 reversible camouflage uniform was printed on one side with a DPM like design, and on the opposite with a duck hunter camouflage pattern. Introduced in the mid- to -late 1970s, the uniforms would have seen service into the 1980s, including the Sino-Vietnamese War.

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  • The second Type 81 reversible uniform features a slightly different disruptive pattern printed on one side, with a color variation of the duck hunter pattern on the reverse side. This pattern was also used during the Sino-Vietnamese War.

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  • A variation of the duck hunter camouflage pattern printed on the Type 81 uniform was also issued to the Airborne forces of the People's Liberation Air Force (PLAF), from the late 1970s into the 1980s. As with all early Chinese issue uniforms, the fabric was lightweight and not very durable.


  • Throughout the 1980s, the PLA experimented with a number of woodland-type camouflage designs for issue to Chinese Special Forces personnel. The two patterns seen below are from the early (1981-82) and late (1989) period.

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  • The PLA adopted its version of the woodland camouflage pattern in 1987, and continued to field the pattern in one form or another until 2007 when the pixelated designs were introduced. Different style uniforms in this pattern have also been exported to several countries around the world, including Albania and several nations in Africa.

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  • The People's Liberation Navy (PLN) introduced an "Oceanic" variation of the standard woodland camouflage for use by Chinese Marines in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Using essentially the same drawings, the pattern incoporates black, dark olive and blue woodland shapes on very pale blue background. This pattern would remain in use until approximately 1999.


  • The duck hunter spot pattern issued previously on reversible camouflage uniforms (and to the PLAF Airborne forces) was re-introduced in a slightly more bold coloration in the mid-1990s, reputedly for wear by personnel operating in low mountain or hilly regions regions.


  • Another pattern from the mid-1990s is the Plateau or Mountain pattern, sometimes called the "winter pattern." Featuring black, brown & olive green woodland shapes on tan background, the pattern was primarily issued to PLA units operating in northern temperate regions & arid regions of China in fall/winter.


  • A vertical leaf camouflage pattern was also produced at this time for PLA units serving in the Guangdong (广东省) region of China, although it was probably issued to PLA units serving elsewhere also.


  • The PLAF Airborne Divisions began wearing a four-colour urban camouflage pattern on parades around 1999. This Type 99 design does not seem to be worn operationally, but only as a mark of their elite status.


  • Around 1999, the PLN replaced the old "Oceanic" camouflage design with a pattern based on the US m81 woodland camouflage drawings, but having black, dark blue, and blue grey-woodland shapes on a pale lavender background. This would be replaced in 2007 by the new pixelated design.


  • PLA Special Forces began wearing a copy of the US six-color desert camouflage pattern around 1999-2000. The pattern does not appear to have been issued to conventional units.


  • A copy of the German Army's Flecktarn camouflage design has been issued from 2001 to some PLA Border Defense units in NE China during summer & for physical training by PLA personnel.

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  • Introduced in 2003, The PLA Tibet Region pattern is a brown-dominant variation of the German Flecktarn design. The pattern is in service with PLA units operating in Tibet & the Beijing Military Region. Also issued with the uniform is a quilted fleece jacket (below, right) printed in the camouflage pattern.

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  • In 2003, a true copy of the US m81 woodland camouflage pattern was introduced for issue to the PLA. The pattern was replaced in 2007 by the new series of pixelated camouflage designs.


  • Around this same period, China also produced a copy of the US tricolor desert pattern for issue to Special Forces. The pattern would have seen limited distribution, as it would be replaced in 2007 by the new series of pixelated designs.


  • Also in 2003, a modified copy of the US MARPAT camouflage design was tested by PLA Special Forces. The design is essentially the same, with the pixels being reduced in size by about 25%. It also lacks the EGA logo of the USMC. This was a short-lived design, having been replaced by the pixelated designs in 2007.


  • Circa 2004-2005 the PLA Special Forces began wearing a DPM pattern similar to that worn by the Philippines.


  • The Type 07 general issue or "universal" camouflage pattern is a pixelated design that was introduced in 2007 for all conventional personnal of the PLA. The pattern consists of mid-brown, grey-green and small elements of very dark green on a neutral grey background.


  • An arid or brown version of the Type 07 pixelated pattern was also introduced for PLA personnel operating in mountainous regions. It has been worn by Special Forces personnel also, and first appeared on this unit when marching in the 60th National Day parade in 2009. The pattern itself was released in 2007.


  • The "oceanic" or blue version of the Type 07 pixelated pattern, worn by the Chinese Navy and Marines.


  • The tropical or green coloration of the Type 07 pixelated pattern is worn by certain strategic artillery units of the PLA.


  • The People's Liberation Army Air Force (中国人民解放军空军) also has their own colorway of the Type 07 pixelated pattern, seen here. Colors are black, medium blue and grey on a pale blue background. This design is also worn by PLA/AF Airborne personnel of the 15th Airborne Army.


  • Multicam has reputedly been adopted recently by some PLA units.


  • At a recent (2012) summer camp sponsored by the PLA, the pattern seen here was observed among the youth participants. It consists of black, mud brown and light brown woodland shapes on a khaki background.


  • Units stationed in extremely cold regions of China wear a white camouflage outer layer of clothing imprinted with sparse olive green pixelated shapes. The overall effect is similar to the German Army's schneetarn pattern, which is probably the origin of the PLA design.


  • Adopted circa 2015 for wear by Opposing Forces (OPFOR), this pixelated design seen here has been documented in use by the PLA 195th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (aka "Blue Force").


  • The green-dominant pixelated design seen here has been adopted specifically for the 1st OPFOR Brigade (Wolves of Zhurihe) of the PLA, which is the current designation of the former 195th Mechanized Infantry Brigade.


Camouflage of the Chinese Armed Police Force (CAPF)

  • Armed Police 1st pattern. Used during the 1980s. This is very similar to the first pattern originally introduced for PLA Special Forces, but the shapes are different.


  • First introduced in the late 1980s, a vertical "leaf" camouflage design continued to be worn by units of the Armed Police operating in tropical or forested regions well into the 1990s. Although the colors varied from the original design to later productions, the shapes remained essentially the same.

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  • The Armed Police bright orange pattern is used by Forest Fire Fighting Units, since around 2005.


  • The Type 05 pixelated pattern has been use since 2005.


  • The Type 07 pixelated pattern has been in use since 2007.


  • This "arid" variation of the pixelated designs seen above is also being worn by some units of the PLAF.


  • A pixelated variation of tiger stripe camouflage is also being fielded by undetermined units of the People's Armed Police. Based on recent photographs, it is likely the unit has some special operations purpose.

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