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The Chinese People's Armed Police Force (abbreviated: PAP) is a Chinese paramilitary police (Gendarmerie) force primarily responsible for internal security, riot control, antiterrorism, law enforcement, and maritime rights protection in China, as well as providing support to the PLA Ground Force during wartime.[2]

Chinese People's Armed Police Force (PAP)
中国人民武装警察部队 (武警)
People's Armed Police Flag.svgBadge of People's Armed Police
Flag and Badge of the People's Armed Police
Founded19 June 1982 (1982-06-19)
Country China
AllegianceFlag of the Chinese Communist Party.svg Communist Party of China
Branch32 × PAP Internal Guard Corps
2 × PAP Mobile Corps
1 × PAP Coastal Guard Corps
RolePreservation of Public Order and Security, Riot Control, Antiterrorism, Civil Defence, Reserves, Coast Guard duties[1]
Size1.5 million
Part ofArmed Forces of the People's Republic of China
(under the Central Military Commission)
Garrison/HQHaidian District, Beijing, China
ColoursRed, Olive green
CommanderPAP General Wang Ning
Political CommissarPAP Lt Gen Zhu Shengling
ArmbandPAP Armband.svg
Emblem of PAP helicoptersEmblem of PAP Helicopter.svg
Emblem of PAP Forestry Troops (abolished 2018) helicoptersEmblem of PAP Forest Force Helicopter.svg
Chinese People's Armed Police Force
Simplified Chinese中国人民武装警察部队
Traditional Chinese中國人民武裝警察部隊
People's Armed Police
Simplified Chinese人民武装警察
Traditional Chinese人民武裝警察
China Armed Police
Simplified Chinese中国武警
Traditional Chinese中國武警
Short form
Simplified Chinese武警[部队]
Traditional Chinese武警[部隊]
Literal meaningArmed Police [Force]

Unlike the regular People's Police of the Ministry of Public Security, the PAP is part of the armed forces and reports to the Central Military Commission. PAP officers wear olive green instead of the blue uniforms of the People's Police.

The PAP is estimated to have a total strength of 1.5 million. It was established in its current form in 1982, but similar security forces have operated since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. During the long Maoist era, the PAP's predecessors were the Chinese People's Public Security Force, initially under the Ministry of Public Security, and later the Public Security Corps which was under the command of the PLA.[3]



The history of the People's Armed Police is as long as that of the People's Republic, and its origin can be traced back to the People's Liberation Army, which was responsible for both defending the nation from foreign invasions and internal security. Although the force was officially established in 1982, its constituent units stretch back to 1949.[4]

In July 1949, the Central Military Commission decided to establish the Ministry of Public Security with Luo Ruiqing as its minister to organize the public security forces in the nation. [3] In August 1949, several security and public order units of the Fourth Field Army were consolidated into the Central Column of the Chinese People's Public Security Force (PSF) to guard the Party and State leaders and to keep the public order in the capital. [3] The Central Column provided security for the inauguration ceremony of the People's Republic.[3] From December 1949 to May 1950, regional security forces, along with the now dissolved Central Column, had been consolidated into divisions under the PSF. [3]

The PSF was assigned to the PLA and became the PLA Public Security Force in September 1950, and the PLA Public Security Corps in July 1955, reporting under the Central Military Commission of the CPC and the National Defense Council of the People's Republic. [3][5] Luo Ruiqing was appointed as the commander and political commissar of the PSF in September 1950 and remained on the posts until 1959, retaining the command of the PSF. [3][6] After numerous reorganizations and transfers of control between the PLA and the Ministry of Public Security, the People's Armed Police was created on 19 June 1982.[3] The establishment of the PAP highlighted the efforts to increase the professionalization of the security apparatus, as well as the absorption of numerous PLA demobilized personnel,[7]:228-229 in the wake of growing unrest.[7]:229

In the mid and late 1990s, President Jiang Zemin significantly expanded and strengthened the PAP, with more than 100,000 new troops.[8] Jiang praised the PAP, describing it as "a major force for maintaining state security and social stability, the People's Armed Police shoulders a massive and formidable burden" and deployed it extensively in Xinjiang and Tibet.[8]

Up until 2013, the China Coast Guard was a part of the PAP, but it was separated, since then it reported directly to the Ministry of Public Security and the State Oceanic Administration. However, in March 2018, it has been announced that the Coast Guard shall be placed under the People's Armed Police Force once again as the State Oceanic Administration has been disbanded, but this time as an independent branch reporting directly to PAP headquarters.[9]


From the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the paramilitary public security force has been reorganized numerous times. The current designation since 1982, the People's Armed Police, was first used between 1959 and 1963.[5][10]

  • 1949–1950: Chinese People's Public Security Force, under the Ministry of Public Security
  • 1950–1955: Public Security Force, under the People's Liberation Army
  • 1955–1959: Public Security Corps, under the PLA
  • 1959–1963: People's Armed Police, under the joint leadership of the MPS and the PLA
  • 1963–1966: Chinese People's Public Security Force, under the joint leadership of the MPS and the PLA
  • 1966–1982: PLA Internal Guard, absorbed into the PLA in an integrated structure. In 1971 and 1973, some units were transferred to the MPS
  • 1982–present: People's Armed Police


People's Armed Police Guards in front of Tiananmen

The People's Armed Police's primary mission is internal security. The first law on the People's Armed Police, the Law on the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF), was passed in August 2009, giving it statutory authority to respond to riots, terrorist attacks or other emergencies.[11][12] Such units guard government buildings at all levels (including party and state organisations, foreign embassies and consulates), provide security to public corporations and major public events, as well as counter-terrorism and handling of public emergencies.[13] Some units perform guard duty in civilian prisons and provide executioners for the state. The PAP also maintains tactical counter-terrorism (CT) units in the Immediate Action Unit (IAU), Snow Wolf Commando Unit (SWCU) and various Special Police Units (SPUs).

The PAP maintains both a division-sized mechanized infantry unit and a rapid deployment light motorized infantry unit, these units are tasked with responding to any possible armed mutinies by PLA soldiers. In wartime deployments the PAP can act as light infantry supporting the PLAGF in local defense missions and in support of the PLAN in naval operations.[14]:87


Wheeled APC (WZ-551) of the People's Armed Police

Until 31 December 2017, the People's Armed Police had a dual command structure including the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the State Council through the Ministry of Public Security.[14]:18

By law however, the PAP operates separately from the PLA.[14]:18 and, in terms of conducting public security operations and relevant capability building, the PAP Headquarters is under the leadership and command of the Ministry of Public Security.

From 1 January 2018, command of the People's Armed Police is jointly held by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the Central Military Commission, with the PAP no longer subordinate to the State Council.[15][16]

The reform was reportedly carried out in order to deprive the local Party authorities of the power to use the PAP units to commit abuses or even against the leadership in Beijing. With the new organization, local authorities need central approval in order to deploy the PAP.[17]

Prior to the 2018 reform, the People's Armed Police was further divided into eight corps: Internal Guard, Gold, Forestry, Hydropower, Transportation, Border Defense, Firefighting, and Safeguard Corps.[7]:232 The Internal Guard Corps, which makes up for the bulk of PAP, is under the PAP Headquarters and reports thus to the Party CC and the CMCs. The Gold, Forestry, Hydropower, and Transportation Corps, collectively known as the Specialist Corps, were by then under the joint leadership of PAP Headquarters and their respective ministries in the State Council.[7]:232 The Border Defense, Firefighting, and Civil Guard Corps, collectively known as the Public Security Corps, are under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Public Security.[7]:232

On 21 March 2018, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China unveiled a reform plan for the People's Armed Police Force. [18] Under this plan, the non-combatant elements of the PAP, the Gold, Forestry, Hydropower, Border Defense, Firefighting, and Civil Guard Corps, are to be removed and the China Coast Guard is to be consolidated with PAP. [19] As of March 2018, the PAP is working with the Central Committee and the relevant organs for the transfer of non-combatant elements into civil service. [19] The Transportation Corps is the only remaining component of the Specialist Corps.

Top-level organizationEdit

The People's Armed Police Headquarters is the leading and commanding organ that directs and administers all the units and provides guidance to it. The PAP has a commander, a political commissar and several deputy commanders and deputy political commissars.[20] The PAP also has departments responsible for logistical and political matters and several speciality departments.

Territorial organizationEdit

The People's Armed Police is composed of contingents at the level of the province (autonomous region or municipality directly under the central government) and armed divisions.

As of 2016, an Internal Guard Zongdui (总队), equivalent to a PLA Division, is stationed at the provincial level, with the exception of Macau and Hong Kong; Internal Guard Zhidui (支队), equivalent to a PLA Regiment, is stationed at the prefectural level; Internal Guard Dadui (大队, equivalent to a PLA battalion) and Internal Guard Zhongdui (中队, equivalent to a PLA company) are stationed at the county level.[18]

The divisions are further downsized to regiments, battalions and companies in battle order, which are stationed in a number of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the headquarters. The PAP Headquarters has an educational institution directly under it. All the contingents have elementary command colleges under them.[20]

Using the national information infrastructure, the PAP has established a preliminary system of three-level integrated information networks, linking general headquarters with the grass-roots squadrons.[20]

The Specialist Corps are responsible in constructing and maintaining highways and roads, until 2018 these were responsible for surveying mineral deposits, fighting forest fires, and constructing large scale waterworks like dams and levees as well as for water works maintenance. [20] The PAP is also called upon in emergency rescue and disaster relief operations within the PRC via the specialist and public security forces which can be forward deployed during such operations.[20]

Border Defense CorpsEdit

Prior to the 2018 reform, the People's Armed Police Border Defense Corps (Chinese: 边防部队; pinyin: Biānfáng Bùdùi) guard China's land and sea borders, as well as its ports and airports. Its main responsibilities were the administration of border and coastal public security, ports and border inspection and surveillance, performing patrols and surveillance activities in areas adjacent to Hong Kong and Macao, as well as patrols and surveillance activities along the demarcation line of the Beibu Gulf and the prevention of and crack-down on illegal and criminal acts in border and coastal areas, such as illegal border crossing, smuggling and drug trafficking.[13]

In the 2018 reform, the Border Defense Corps is to be transferred into the civil service and demilitarized. [19]

Ranks and insigniaEdit

Due to its history with the PLA, the PAP has a similar rank structure to the PLA and also obeys its regulations. PAP guards are also recruited at the same time and through the same procedures as PLA soldiers. However, the PAP has its own education and training system separate from the PLA. Like the PLA, the PAP also celebrates Army Day on August 1 of every year, and enjoys the same services as the PLA. The CCG, as the naval arm of the PAPF, wears naval-style insignia and uniforms.

Ranks of the PAP Internal GuardEdit

Title 武警学员
Wu jing xue yuan
Wu jing shao wei
Wu jing zhong wei
Wu jing shang wei
Wu jing shao xiao
Wu jing zhong xiao
Wu jing shang xiao
Wu jing da xiao
Wu jing Shao jiang
Wu jing zhong jiang
Wu jing shang jiang
Usual Translation PAP officer cadet
PAP 2nd lieutenant
PAP 1st lieutenant
PAP captain
PAP major
PAP lieutenant colonel
PAP colonel
PAP Senior colonel
PAP major general
PAP lieutenant general
PAP general
Shoulder Insignia                      
Collar Insignia                      
Non-commissioned officers and enlistedEdit
Title 武警列兵
Wu jing lie bing
Wu jing shang deng bing
Wu jing xia shi
Wu jing zhong shi
Wu jing shang shi
Wu jing si ji jing shi zhang
Wu jing san ji jing shi zhang
Wu jing er ji jing shi zhang
Wu jing yi ji jing shi zhang
Usual Translation PAP private
PAP private 1st class
PAP lance corporal
PAP corporal
PAP sergeant
PAP chief sergeant 4th class
PAP chief sergeant 3rd class
PAP chief sergeant 2nd class
PAP chief sergeant 1st class
Shoulder Insignia                  
Collar Insignia                  

For ranks used by the China Coast Guard, see Ranks of the People's Liberation Army Navy, the CCG uses the ranks, insignia and uniforms used by the PLA Navy

Special unitsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Top legislature passes armed police law. China Daily. August 27, 2009.
  2. ^ Kuo, Lily; Kuo, Lily. "China is spending more on policing its own people than on its defense budget". Quartz.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Xia, Mingxing; Zhang, Ning; Zhu, Xiongnan (16 August 2017). "毛泽东关心武警部队早期建设纪事" [Mao Zedong cares about the early construction of the armed police force]. People's Daily Online. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  4. ^ Shambaugh, David L. (2002). Modernizing China's military : progress, problems, and prospects. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 170. ISBN 0520225074. OCLC 49225216.
  5. ^ a b Sun, Ivan Y.; Wu, Yuning (December 2009). "The Role of the People's Armed Police in Chinese Policing". Asian Journal of Criminology. 4 (2): 107–128. doi:10.1007/s11417-008-9059-y. ISSN 1871-0131.
  6. ^ Chu, Fang. (1998). Gun barrel politics : party--army relations in Mao's China. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. pp. 40–41. ISBN 081333456X. OCLC 38286530.
  7. ^ a b c d e Guo, Xuezhi (2012). China's security state : philosophy, evolution, and politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Aug. ISBN 9781107688841. OCLC 874118926.
  8. ^ a b Eckholm, Erik (28 March 1999). "A Secretive Army Grows to Maintain Order in China". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  9. ^ China's Coast Guard is Now a Military Police Unit The Maritime Executive, March 21st 2018
  10. ^ Lu Gengsong, China's Armed Police and Nationalization of the Police Force, Beijing Spring, September 2006
  11. ^ Top legislature passes armed police law. China Daily. August 27, 2009.
  12. ^ Wines, Michael (August 27, 2009). China Approves Law Governing Armed Police Force . The New York Times.
  13. ^ a b "Armed Police Force". Ministry of National Defense. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Blasko, Dennis J. (2006). The Chinese Army today : tradition and transformation for the 21st century (2nd ed.). London: Routledge. ISBN 0415770025. OCLC 68694731.
  15. ^ Times, Global. "Armed police to be commanded by CPC Central Committee, CMC - Global Times". Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  16. ^ Zhao, Lei (28 December 2017). "Command of Armed Police Force to be unified -". China Daily. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  17. ^ Zhou, Viola (28 December 2017). "Why China's armed police will only take orders from Xi's army elite". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  18. ^ a b Zi, Yang (22 March 2018). "Party plan for reform unveiled - China Daily". Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  19. ^ a b c Ni, Wei (2018-04-06). "武警改革的出与进:八大警种瘦身健体" [The Coming and Going of the PAP Reform: Eight Corps Slimming Down]. The Beijing News. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
  20. ^ a b c d e Information Office of the State Council (2006). "V. People's Armed Police Force". China's National Defense In 2006. Beijing. Retrieved 22 September 2015.

External linksEdit