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People's Liberation Army

PLA - Order of Battle

China's ground forces are currently comprised of approximately 75 army maneuver divisions. Approximately 20 percent of these divisions are designated "rapid reaction" units.

The Chinese military divides its units into two categories, Category A and Category B. Category A covers "full-training units" with complete armaments and full establishment. They have modern armaments, and undergo full-time, high-intensity military training. Category B units are "non-full-training units" which have out-of-date armaments, are under-manned, have low budgets, receive less training, often participate in productive labor, and have to have their weapons replaced and receive basic training before they can go into battle. China's Category B units are similar to the US National Guard.

As of the late 1980s the strength of the Category A units of the Chinese ground force was about 700,000, grouped into seven rapid response group armies (the 1st Army, 13th Army, 21st Army, 27th Army, 38th Army, 39th Army, and the 54th Army). Category B (Category 1 reserve) units of the Chinese ground force were in 19 group armies, 60 motorized infantry divisions, and some independent artillery divisions (or brigades).

People’s Armed Police (PAP) was created in 1983 when the PLA transferred most of its internal police and border responsibilities to the new force. The PAP is still primarily composed of demobilized PLA personnel. As a result of the 1,000,000-man reduction in the PLA in the 1980s, the People's Armed Police grew by about 500,000 troops, to a total of roughly 800,000.

As of the late 1980s main forces included about 35 group armies, comprising 118 infantry divisions, 13 armored divisions, 17 artillery divisions, 16 antiaircraft artillery divisions, plus 71 independent regiments and 21 independent battalions of mostly support troops (artillery, antiaircraft artillery, signal, antichemical warfare, reconnaissance, and engineer). Regional forces consisted of 73 divisions of border defense and garrison troops plus 140 independent regiments.

As a result of the troop reductions announced in the July 1998 White Paper on National Defense, a number of PLA Divisions have been transfered to the PAP.By the late 1990s the Army had been reduced to 24 Group Armies incorporating a total of 90 divisions. Of these Armies, 17 are deployed in the north and northeast, positioned to repel Russia from the north, and Japan and Western powers from the east and over the Korean Peninsula. In August 1999 Major-General Zhu Wenquan, commander of the PLA's First Group Army was made commander of the Nanjing military region, which oversees the Taiwan area. Zhu, who was also promoted to lieutenant-general, is known in military circles as an expert in amphibious warfare.

Under the old system, a field army consisted of three partially motorized infantry divisions and two regiments of artillery and antiaircraft artillery. Each field army division had over 12,000 personnel in three infantry regiments, one artillery regiment, one armored regiment, and one antiaircraft artillery battalion. Organization was flexible, the higher echelons being free to tailor forces for combat around any number of infantry divisions. At least theoretically, each division had its own armor and artillery -- actual equipment levels were not revealed and probably varied -- and the assets at army level and within the independent units could be apportioned as needed.

The new, main-force Group Armies typically include 46,300 troops in up to four divisions, believed to include infantry, armor, artillery, air defense, airborne, and air support elements. Although the new Group Armies were supposed to reflect a move to combined-arms operations, because of a lack of mechanization they continue to consist of infantry supported by armor, artillery, and other units. The armored divisions each have 3 regiments and 240 main battle tanks but lack adequate mechanized infantry support.

Detailed information concerning the PLA order of battle is not readily available in the unclassified literature. The single most authoritative source, indeed the only source, of such information is the Directory of PRC Military Personalities, produced for many years under the sponsoship of the US Military Liasion Office at the US Consulate in Hong Kong. This estimable work lists thousands of PLA military officers and their associated posts and units. From this unique reference work, it is possible to piece together a reasonably illuminating depiction of the PLA order of battle at the division level as of the late 1990s.

Division Strength
Un-Counted [?]8
1998 Division Deployment

The data contained in the Directory of PRC Military Personalities is evidently, and not surprisingingly, incomplete. Of the 90 Divisions that were reportedly part of the PLA active force structure around 1998, the Directory provides convincing documentation for at least 82 Divisions. At least a four of these Divisions are very poorly attested [as indicated by ?? in the far right column], and another handful of Divisions are too poorly attested to warrant inclusion in this order of battle, though the fact of their existence is at least suggested by fragmentary entries in the Directory. At least a few of the Divisions that are identifiable in the Directory have almost certainly been inactivated or transitioned to Reserve status subsequent to the June 1998 data cutoff, consequent to the subsequent reduction in force structure to about 75 Divisions.

In addition to the familiar unit designation nomenclature, such as "112th Mechanized Infantry Division," PLA units have five-digit numerical designations -- the 112th Division is also designated "Unit 51033." This numerical designation system, evidently similar to the American system of Unit Identification Codes [UIC], is rather more extensively documented than the more conventional alpha-numerical designations. Although faint patterns may be discerned in the PLA numerical designators, these patterns are not so robust as to suggest a systematic basis for their assignment, and certainly not so robust as to suggest a method for interpolating missing unit numerical designations.

PLA Order of Battle ~1998

RegionGroup ArmyDivisionDistrictCityUnit #
24 Group ArmyHebeiChengde
UI Inf Div52824
UI DivTangshan
27 Group ArmyHebeiShijiazhuang51002
79 DivHeibeiXingtai
UI Div
28 Group ArmyShanxiDatong
UI Tank Div52875
38 Mech Group ArmyHeibeiBaoding51034
112 Mech Inf DivHebeiXingcheng51033
113 Div
6 Tank DivBeijingChangping52884
UI DivTaihang Shan
63 Group ArmyShanxiTaiyuan52935
UI Motor Inf DivShanxiXinhou52941
UI Motor Inf Div
65 Group ArmyHebeiZhangjiakou51056
1 Div "Red"
UI Div
UI Div
1 Tank DivTianjin
UI Air Defense Div
Beijing Garrision
UI Div
Reserve Garrisions
UI Res DivBeijing
1 Army Res DivTianjin
2 Res DivTianjin
UI Res DivHebei
UI Res DivHebeiLangfang
UI Res Arty DivHebeiTangshan
UI Res DivShanxiZinzhou
UI Res Inf DivShanxiYanbei
13 Group ArmySichuanChongoing56005
37 DivSichuanChongoing56013
149 Motor Inf Div56016
14 Group ArmyYunnanKunming35201
UI DivYunnanDali35108
UI DivYunnanKaiyuan35208
UI Arty DivYunnanKunming35304
Reserve Garrisions
UI Res Inf DivSichuanDachuan
UI Res DivGuizhouDuyun
UI Res DivGuizhouXingyi
UI DivGuangdong53806
UI DivHainan
41 Group ArmyGuangxiLiuzhou53010
121 Inf DivGuangxiGuilin53013
123 DivGuangxi53023
164 DivGuangdongZhanjiang53508
42 Group ArmyGuangdongHuizhou53200
124 Motor Inf DivGuangdongBolou53203
144 DivGuangdongShantou53503
UI Arty DivGuangdong53802
Hong Kong Garrison53300
Reserve Garrisions
1 Inf Res DivGuangdong
UI Inf Res DivHunanZhushou
UI Inf Res DivGuangxiLiuzhou
1 Army Inf Res DivHainan
UI Res DivHubeiXingfan
20 Group ArmyHenanKaifeng54631
UI Inf DivHenanXuchang54652
54 Inf DivHenanXuchang54642
UI Tank DivHenanZhumadian
26 Group Army54685
UI Arty Div
UI Div
54 Group ArmyHenanXinxiang54774
127 Motor Inf DivHenanLuoyang
UI Inf Div
UI Div??
67 Group ArmyShandongZibo54862
UI Arty DivShandongZhucheng
UI Tank DivShandongWeifang54960
UI DivShandongZibo/Zhoucun54871
UI Div54898
UI Div??
Reserve Garrisions
UI Res DivShandongDezhou
UI Arty Res DivShandongJining
UI Res DivHenanKaifeng
UI Res DivShandongYantai
21 Group ArmyShaanxiBaoji84810
61 DivGansuTianshui84802
12 Tank DivGansuJiuquan84701
UI DivGansuZhangye84801
UI DivGansuWuwei84808
47 Group ArmyShaanxiLintong84870
UI Red Army DivXinjiang
UI Highland Motor DivXinjiangKarakorum Mt36220
UI DivXinjiang
UI DivXinjiang??
Reserve Garrisions
UI Inf Res DivShaanxiXianyang
UI Res AAA DivShaanxiXian
UI Res AAA DivGansuLanzhou
UI Res DivGansuTianshui
UI Res DivXinjiangShihezi
1 Group ArmyZhejiangHuzhou83011
1 Motor Inf DivZhejiangHangzhou83013
2 DivJiangsuYixing83016
UI DivZhejiangJinhua83021
181 DivJiangsuWuxi83318
UI Arty Div
UI Tank Div
12 Group ArmyJiangsuXuzhou83226
35 DivAnhui
36 DivJiangsu[north]83235
179 Inf DivJiangsuNanjing83123
UI Tank DivXuzhou83567
31 Group ArmyFujianXiamen32404
76 Div
UI Div32443
UI DivFujian[south]??
Reserve Garrisions
UI Res DivJiangxiShangrao
UI Res DivJiangsuYangzhou
1 Inf Res DivZhejiang
UI Res DivAnhuiChuzhou
1 Inf Res DivFujian
UI Res DivJiangxiNanchang
UI Res AAA DivShanghai
16 Group ArmyJilinChangchun81021
32 DivJilinTonghua81123
46 Div
47 DivJilinJilin81112
UI Arty DivJilinYanbian
4 Tank DivJilinShanchengzhen81389
23 Group ArmyHeilongjiangHarbin81032
67 DivHeilongjiangMudanjiang81134
69 DivHeilongjiangHarbin81156
39 Mech Group ArmyLiaoningLiaoyang81043
115 Motor Inf DivLiaoningGaixian81167
116 Mech Inf DivLiaoningHaicheng81178
40 Group ArmyLiaoningJinzhou81054
118 Arty DivLiaoningYixian81200
119 DivNEI MongolChifeng81211
120 DivLiaoningXingcheng81222
8 Tank DivLiaoningFuxin81400
UI DivLiaoning[west]
64 Group ArmyLiaoningDalian81065
190 Mech Inf Div81233
191 DivLiaoningDandong81244
192 DivLiaoningFengcheng81255
3 Tank DivJilinSiping81378
Reserve Garrisions
UI Res DivLiaoningBenxi
Naval Res AAA DivLiaoningDalian
UI Res DivLiaoningJinzhou
UI Res AAA DivLiaoningShenyang
UI Res DivJilinChangchun
UI Res DivJilinSiping
UI Inf Res DivJilinYangbian
UI Res DivHeilongjiangQiqihar
UI Res DivHeilongjiangSuiha

Sources and Resources

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