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The Chinese People's Armed Police Force (abbreviated: PAP) is a Chinese paramilitary police (Gendarmerie)[2]:121 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.[3]

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 Cap Insignia 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 General An Zhaoqing
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.[4]

The People's Armed Police makes use of remotely-controlled technologies as unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced surveillance technology and bomb disposal robots.[5]


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.[6]

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.[4] 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.[4] The Central Column provided security for the inauguration ceremony of the People's Republic.[4] From December 1949 to May 1950, regional security forces, along with the now dissolved Central Column, had been consolidated into divisions under the PSF.[4]

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.[4][2] 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.[4][7] 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.[4] 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,[8]:228–229 in the wake of growing unrest.[8]:229

In the mid and late 1990s, President Jiang Zemin significantly expanded and strengthened the PAP, with more than 100,000 new troops.[9] 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.[9]

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.[10]

2017-2018 ReformEdit

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.[11]:18

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.[8]: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.[8]:232 The Border Defense, Firefighting, and Guard Corps, collectively known as the Public Security Corps, are under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Public Security.[8]:232

By law however, the PAP operates separately from the PLA.[11]: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.[12][13]

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.[14]

On 21 March 2018, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China unveiled a reform plan for the People's Armed Police Force.[15] Under this plan, the non-combatant elements of the PAP, the Gold, Forestry, Hydropower, Border Defense, Firefighting, and Guard Corps, are to be removed and the China Coast Guard is to be consolidated with PAP.[16] 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.[16] The Transportation Corps is the only remaining component of the Specialist Corps.

Until 2018, the Specialist Corps were responsible in constructing and maintaining highways and roads, surveying mineral deposits, fighting forest fires, and constructing large scale [17]waterworks like dams and levees as well as for water works maintenance.[18] 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.[18]

Organizational changesEdit

With the 2018 reforms, Specialist Corps other than the Transportation Corps have been placed under other ministries. The China Coast Guard has been transferred from State Council to PAP command, and the Transportation Corps has some units under the Mobile Contingents.[17]:15

The Border Defense Corps and Guards Corps have been absorbed by the Ministry of Public Security. The Firefighting Corps and Forestry Corps are placed under the Ministry of Emergency Management. The Gold Corps and Hydropower Corps have been transformed into state-owned enterprises under the supervision of the relevant State Council ministries (Ministry of Natural Resources and China National Gold Group Corporation and China Aneng Construction Corporation, respectively).[17]:15


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.[2][19]

  • 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

Mission and operationsEdit

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.[1][20] 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.[21] 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).

In the Chinese policing system, the People's Armed Police concentrates on managing mass incidents and protecting important facilities and events, while the public security focuses on handling crime and order maintenance issues.[2]{rp|119}} The People's Armed Police assists the regular police in operations where violent opposition is expected, in roadblocks and criminal scenes guarding and protection. The People's Armed Police is also involved in anti-crime campaigns. In order maintenance activities, the People's Armed Police uses the preventive patrol, under the leadership of the public security organs, and sometimes in conjunction with them. When dealing with mas incidents, with gang activities and other risk situations, the leaderships shifts to the People's Armed Police. However, the People's Armed Police also conducts exclusive patrols.[2]:123-125

While the People’s Armed Police is principally charged with internal security and guarding key facilities and installations, it also operates as part of the international security efforts of the People's Republic of China, including Afghanistan. The People’s Armed Police sent personnel abroad to receive training or provide training and participates in counter-terrorism exercises.[22]:26

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.[11]:87

Top-level organisationEdit

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.[18] The PAP also has departments responsible for logistical and political matters and several speciality departments.

Following adjustment and reorganisation, the People's Armed Police is mainly composed of the territorial forces, the mobile forces, and the Coast Guard.[23]

The People's Armed Police Headquarters, of Theater Command Grade, include five Departments directly under the Headquarters:[17]:10,32

  • Staff Department (Deputy Theater Command Grade);
  • Political Work Department (Deputy Theater Command Grade);
  • Discipline Inspection Commission (Deputy Theater Command Grade);
  • Logistics Department (Corps Leader Grade);
  • Equipment Department (Corps Leader Grade).

Being of Theatre Command Grade, the People's Armed Police is led by a full General.[24]


The People's Armed Police has a number of training institutions, likely overseen by the Training Bureau of the Staff Department.[17]:32[24]

  • People's Armed Police Academy (Corps Leader Grade, led by a Major General);
  • People's Armed Police Engineering University (Corps Leader Grade, led by a Major General);
  • People's Armed Police Command Academy (Corps Leader Grade, led by a Major General);
  • People's Armed Police Logistics Academy (Corps Leader Grade, led by a Major General);
  • People's Armed Police Officers Academy (Deputy Corps Leader Grade, led by a Major General);
  • People's Armed Police Special Police Academy (Deputy Corps Leader Grade, led by a Major General).

Recruits of the People's Armed Police are drawn from the general military conscription pool, but they are trained in the People's Armed Police basic training units.[25]:28 According to Zi Yang, the state of the education and training system as of 2016 suffered of issues which negatively affected the quality of education.[26]

Mobile organisationEdit

The mobile organisation emerging from 2018 reforms consists of two large formations tasked with providing support to the whole national territory, should the need arise;[17]:12-13

These two Mobile Contingents (Chinese: 机动总队; pinyin: Jīdòng Zǒngduì) have a similar structure and are considered corps leader grade (Chinese: 正军级; pinyin: Zhèngjūnjí), one level higher than all of the provincial contingents other than Xinjiang and Beijing Commands. Units of the Mobile Contingents mostly originate from former 14 PAP's Divisions.[17]:13 Each Mobile Contingent maintains a Staff, a Political Work Department and a Discipline Inspection Department at the Deputy Corps Leader Grade.[17]:32

The mobile Contingents, like their predecessor 14 Divisions, are mainly responsible for dealing with terrorism, violent crime, riots, and public security threats.[8]:233

Being of Corps leader grade, Mobile Contingents are led by a Major General each.[24]

1st Mobile ContingentEdit

The 1st Mobile Contingent is based in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, south of Beijing. The Contingent covers northern and central China, including Beijing.[27] The 1st Mobile Contingent consists of:[17]:14

2nd Mobile ContingentEdit

The 2nd Mobile Contingent is headquartered in Fuzhou, with units concentrated in Fujian and surrounding provinces along the coast (covering eastern and southern China).[17]:13 The 2nd Mobile Contingent consists of:[17]:14

The incumbent Commander is Major General Chen Hongwu, while the Political Commissar is Major General Yang Zhenguo.

Internal Guard CorpsEdit

The People's Armed Police is not subordinated to the local government authorities. Instead, the People's Armed Police is composed of echelons corresponding to all government levels, from the Province (including Autonomous Regions or Municipalities directly under the central government) to the Township; the territorial organisation is the Internal Guard Corps (Chinese: 内卫部队; pinyin: Nèiwèi Bùduì).[17]:10

The thirty-one general corps are responsible for security duty of important political and economic facilities and government buildings at all levels (including party and state organizations, foreign embassies, and consulates), municipal armed patrol, security duty for senior government officials,

Provincial levelEdit

In each boundary at the provincial level, a Contingent (Chinese: 总队; pinyin: Zǒngduì), a formation equivalent in rank to a PLA Division,[2]:116 is stationed, with the exception of Macau and Hong Kong.[15] The provincial command is deputy corps leader grade (Chinese: 副军级; pinyin: Fùjūnjí), with the exception of Xinjiang and Beijing Commands, which are senior in rank (Chinese: 正军级; pinyin: Zhèngjūnjí; literally: 'corps leader grade'). A provincial Contingent is deemed to be between 15,000 and 30,000 troops strong.[28]

Provincial command's main tasks are to undertake fixed target duty and urban armed patrol missions, to ensure the security of important national goals, to deal with various emergencies, to maintain national security and social stability, to support national economic construction and to carry out rescue and disaster relief tasks.

Each Contingent maintains a Staff, a Political Work Department and a Discipline Inspection Department. Beijing and Xinjiang Contingents maintain these departments at the Deputy Corps Leader Grade, while the other 30 Contingents maintain them at the Division Leader Grade.[17]:32 All provincial-level Contingents maintain "Duty Detachments" (Chinese: 执勤支队; pinyin: Zhíqín Zhīduì), which perform routine duties, including protecting government compounds, in order to be able to complement the Public Security apparatus in case of the latter's failure to handle riots and other forms of mass incidents.[17]:22

Alongside the territorial forces, units roughly equivalent to PLA army regiments, some of which formerly subordinated to the disbanded 14 mobile divisions and some already established within the provincial commands, have been renamed "Mobile Detachment" (Chinese: 机动支队; pinyin: Jīdòng Zhīduì).[8]:233 Several of these Mobile Detachments are assigned to the provincial-level commands, in order to provide local authorities of rapid reaction forces. 26 provincial-level subdivisions have 1 Mobile Detachment in addition to the provincial force; seven subdivisions instead have more than one:[17]:12-13,36

Lower levelsEdit

The divisions deployed at the provincial levels 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. All the contingents have elementary command colleges under them.[18]

A Detachment (Chinese: 支队; pinyin: Zhīduì, equivalent to a PLA regiment) is stationed at the prefectural level, battalion (Chinese: 大队; pinyin: Dàduì, equivalent to a PLA battalion) at the county level, and company (Chinese: 中队; pinyin: Zhōngduì, equivalent to a PLA company) at the township level.[8]:234[17]:7

China Coast GuardEdit

The Chinese People's Armed Police Force Coast Guard Corps, also abbreviated as China Coast Guard is the agency for maritime search and rescue and law enforcement in the territorial waters of the People's Republic of China. The China Coast Guard was formerly the maritime branch of the People's Armed Police (PAP) Border Security Force under the Ministry of Public Security until 2013. In March 2013, China announced it would form a unified Coast Guard commanded by the State Oceanic Administration. This renewed Coast Guard has been in operation since July 2013. As of July 1, 2018, the China Coast Guard was transferred from civilian control of the State Council and the State Oceanic Administration, to the People's Armed Police, ultimately placing it under the command of the Central Military Commission.
According to Joel Wuthnow, the Coast Guard Command within the People's Armed Police possibly is of Corps Leader Grade.[17]:32

In June 2018, the China Coast Guard was granted maritime rights and law enforcement akin civilian law enforcement agencies in order to carry out contrast of illegal activities, keep peace and order, as well as safeguarding security at sea, when performing duties related to the use of marine resources, protection of marine environment, regulation of fishery, and anti-smuggling.[29]

Special police unitsEdit

The People's Armed Police maintains several Special Police Units. They were established in Beijing in early 1980s and in 1983 the first of them was transferred to the People's Armed Police as the People's Armed Police Special Police Group. In 1985 the Group became People's Armed Police Special Police School and, in 2002, it became the People's Armed Police Special Police Academy.[2]{rp|123}}[28] In 2002, the Snow Wolf Commando Unit, since 2007 Snow Leopard Commando Unit, was established in Beijing as the second special police unit.[2]{rp|123}}[28] According to Joel Wuthnow, the Snow Leopard Commando Unit was moved from the Beijing Contingent to the 2nd Mobile Contingent in 2018.[17]:36

The special police units are tasked to carry out counter terrorism missions, riot control, anti-hijacking and bomb disposal.[28]


Special Police Units are organized and placed at the Provincial level and at national level.[28]

The national-level Special Police Unit is the People's Armed Police Special Police Academy, reporting to the People's Armed Police Headquarters. The Academy has both educational and operational roles. On one hand, it is tasked to provide courses in special reconnaissance and special police operations; on the other hand, it has to carry out counter terrorism missions, riot control, anti-hijacking and bomb disposal. The main operational unit of the People's Armed Police Special Police Academy is the Falcon Unit.[28] In addition, the 1st and 2nd Mobile Contingents maintain a total of 5 Special Operations Detachments.[17]:12-13

Each provincial-level Contingent (Chinese: 总队; pinyin: Zǒngduì) establishes and maintains special police units as part of its own territorial organization.[28] As of 2019, there are three known special police units within the People's Armed Police:[30][31]

For what regards Special Operations detachments of the Mobile Contingents, some of the specialized units may have drawn from the provincial Contingents.[17]:36


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.[18]

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.[21]

In the 2018 reform, the Border Defense Corps has been transferred into the Ministry of Public Security.[16][17]:15

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.


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


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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h 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.
  3. ^ Kuo, Lily; Kuo, Lily. "China is spending more on policing its own people than on its defense budget". Quartz.
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  12. ^ "Armed police to be commanded by CPC Central Committee, CMC". Global Times. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
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  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ a b Zi, Yang (22 March 2018). "Party plan for reform unveiled - China Daily". Retrieved 21 March 2018.
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  20. ^ Wines, Michael (2009-08-27). "China Approves Law Governing Armed Police Force". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
  21. ^ a b "Armed Police Force". Ministry of National Defense. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  22. ^ Heath, Timothy R. (2018). China’s Pursuit of Overseas Security (PDF). Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation. p. 26. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  23. ^ "White paper gives overview of reshuffled armed forces - Xinhua |". Xinhua. 24 July 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  24. ^ a b c Allen, Kenneth (30 January 2017). "China Announces Reform of Military Ranks". The Jamestown Foundation. The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  25. ^ Blasko, Dennis J. (2012). Chinese Army today : tradition and transformation for the 21st century (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. p. 28. ISBN 9780415783217. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  26. ^ Zi, Yang (24 March 2016). "The Chinese People's Armed Police in a Time of Armed Forces Restructuring". China Brief. The Jamestown Foundation. 16 (6). Retrieved 16 October 2019.
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External linksEdit