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People's Liberation Navy - Organizational Structure


The PLAN considers its founding day as 23 April 1949, when the East China Military Region Navy was created. In January 1950, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee's Military Commission, commonly known as the Central Military Commission (CMC), appointed an Army general, Xiao Jinguang, as the first PLAN commander. On 14 April 1950, PLAN Headquarters was officially established in Beijing.

As of 2007, the PLAN was composed of five branches- submarine, surface forces, naval aviation, coastal defense, and marine corps. It also has 10 subordinate academies and schools, as well as various research institutes, specialized support forces, and a political, logistics, and maintenance structure. These forces are organized into three fleets-North Sea Fleet (NSF), East Sea Fleet (ESF), and South Sea Fleet (SSF). The PLAN's primary missions are to guard against enemy invasion from the sea, defend the state's sovereignty over its territorial waters, and safeguard the state's maritime rights and interests.

Unit Designators

Every PLAN platoon and above unit has a True Unit Designator or TUD, such as the 62nd Submarine Zhidui or the Qingdao Support Base. However, the PLAN rarely provides these designators to the public in speeches or newspaper articles, on letterhead, or on Internet sites. Instead, the PLAN identifies them as a "certain" unit, such as a "certain North Sea Fleet submarine zhidui." In some cases, the PLAN identifies regiment level and above units with what it calls a "unit designator code". Outside China, this is known as a Military Unit Cover Designator, or MUCD.

People's Liberation Navy - Organizational Terminology

The DIA in 2007 related that the PLAN had three echelons below the Fleet level. DIA would translate Zhidui as a Flotilla, Dadui as either a Squadron (of vessels) or a Group (aviation, training, and ground-based), and Zhongdui as a battalion-leader organization for surface ships or a Squadron (for aviation). Zhidui might be directly rendered as "leading team".
  • Zhidui Flotilla: A PLAN zhidui [Flotilla] is a division leader-grade vessel headquarters organization, which various dictionaries translate as a "flotilla" or "division." The PLAN has seven types of zhidui:
    • Submarine
    • Destroyer
    • Frigate
    • Speedboat
    • Combat support vessel
    • Submarine chaser and frigate
    • Landing ship

    Some zhidui are combined-vessel zhidui that are composed of several types of vessels. For example, the PLAN has destroyer and frigate zhidui, nuclear and conventional submarine zhidui, and speedboat zhidui that consist of missile boats, minesweeper boats, submarine chasers, and torpedo boats. Vessel zhidui normally have a set number of support vessels.

  • Dadui Squadron: A PLAN dadui [Squadron] can be either a regiment-leader or battalion-leader grade organization, depending on which branch and type of unit is being discussed. When applied to naval vessels, a dadui is a regiment leader-grade vessel headquarters organization and is most often translated as a "squadron." Training dadui are also regiment leader-grade organizations. For PLAN aviation, coastal defense, Marine Corps, and maintenance troops, a dadui is a battalion leader-grade headquarters organization, which is sometimes translated as a "group."

    In other contexts, Dadui might be rendered as "company", or "big team, or "Brigade". But in a military context, a Brigade would be designated as l, and even though a Dadui might be about the size of a regiment, a Regiment may be better rendered as tuan. For a quarter century, until the economic reforms of 1978-1979, the communes and their subunits, the production brigades (shengchan dadui) and the lower-level production teams (shengchan dui) were the fundamental political, social, and economic units of rural China. The production brigades and lower-level production teams [shengchan dadui and shengchan dui] were built on existing structures of the local community, but redefined as a product of the state. In the pre-reform era the collectivized unit of agricultural production was called dadui or shenchan dadui, literally meaning big production team. The dadui had tremendous local decision making power. Subsequent to the reforms, the body of the production brigade (shengchan dadui) was turned to administrative villages (xingzheng cun), while farmers of production teams were organised into villager groups. In the post-reform era, most of the dadui simply became Village Level Administration, as collectivesed farming was phased out and replaces with household responsibility system (occasional collectivised dadui still remain). With village elections came the Village Committee (VC) and the Villagers' Group (VG) [in over 60% of all the villages nationwide by 1997] which performed functions similar to those once performed by shengchan dadui (village brigade) and shengchan xiaodui (production team) under the commune system. Though the term is rarely officially used, nowadays many anachronistically call themselves dadui. In post-reform China many have taken on the role of organising enterprises where resources are pooled and collective investments made. They are known as TVEs or Township Village Enterprises and their success have contributed a great deal to China's economic rise.
  • Zhongdui Detachment: This level of organization for vessels is generally not discussed in English-language articles about the PLAN, nor is there any standard [or even readily available nautical] rendering of this term. For PLAN vessels and training organizations, this is a battalion leader-grade organization. For PLAN aviation, coastal defense, Marine Corps, and maintenance troops, this is a company leader-grade organization.

    A Zhongdui is literally a "medium team" or "Medium Detachment", but the term is also rendered as company [People's Armed Police, but not Army, which uses the term lian] or a Squadron (for aviation). PAP regiments range from 800 to more than 2000 troops, and are broken down into battalion (dadui) and company (zhongdui) sub-units. A security guards company (lian or zhongdui) might be made up of 100 or so soldiers, while a security guards platoon (pai) might be roughly 35 strong. PLAAF's main arm, the aviation troop aircraft, are organized into air divisions (shi), air regiments (tuan), groups (dadui), and squadrons (zhongdui). The term zhongdui is also used to designate Chinese naval commando reconnaissance units. In Chinese prisons inmates are organized into brigades (dadui), squadrons (zhongdui), and teams (xiaodui).

The PLAN has the following five specific terms for its vessels, ships, and boats, each with a specific meaning and organizational grade level. Within the PLAN, each type of vessel is assigned one of the PLA's 15 grades. The vessel terms and their grades are shown below:

  • Jianting and jianchuan are generic terms that refer to boats, ships, and vessels.
  • Chuan is best translated as a "ship." Within the PLAN, a chuan is a non-combat support vessel that can be of any size or type. Therefore, there is no set grade level for a chuan. In fact, the commander for some chuan are noncommissioned officers (NCOs).
  • Jian is best translated as a "ship." Within the PLAN, a jian is a combat vessel that is more than 400 tons. A jian is a regiment leader-grade organization.
  • Ting is best translated as a "boat." Within the PLAN, a ting is a vessel that is less than 400 tons. Certain types of ting are now more than 400 tons, especially after they have been upgraded with heavier weapon systems, but the designation has remained based on historical precedence. The highest grade for a ting is battalion leader-grade, but some ting can be lower than battalion leader-grade. For example, a 125-ton escort boat is a company leader-grade organization; a guided missile boat is a company deputy leader-grade or platoon leader-grade organization; and a landing craft, which has an NCO as the commander, does not have a grade.

In the PLAN, a submarine is classified as a boat. However, nuclear submarines are considered a division deputy-grade organization, and conventional-powered submarines are considered regiment deputy-leader grade organizations.

Below shows the grade structure for the three types of vessel headquarters and vessel types that are subordinate to the headquarters. For example, destroyers, which are a regiment leader-grade organization, are subordinate to a zhidui headquarters, and frigates, which are a regiment deputy leader-grade organization, are subordinate to a dadui headquarters.

Grade Structure for Vessel Headquarters and Vessel Types



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