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PLA Officer Corps

The PLA's and PLAN's officer corps are organized into officers and technical officers.All PLA officers serve in one of five career tracks, each of which is broken into several specialties. With the exception of the political career track, officers are assigned to their career track and specialty when they enter an officer academy as a cadet.

The PLA's education system has undergone continuous reforms along an uneven path since the PRC was founded in 1949. The primary goal of these reforms has been to produce an educated officer corps capable of commanding, using, supplying, and maintaining the PLA's weapon systems and equipment during wartime. The path began with an illiterate or semiliterate force and is now producing operational and technical officers with graduate degrees.

Although the PLA and PLAN do not provide specific data about the size and breakdown of its personnel force, available information as of 2007, suggests the PLAN has approximately 290,000 personnel. A 1:1:1 ratio for PLA officers, NCOs, and conscripts means the PLAN has approximately 97,000 officers.

Officer Career Tracks

PLA officers are assigned to one of five career tracks:

  • Military officer, also identified as the command track
  • Political officer
  • Logistics officer
  • Equipment officer
  • Technical officer

Officers in the military track normally attend one of the PLA's command academies or specialized academies, such as the Dalian Naval Vessel Academy. Upon graduation, these officers are assigned as unit commanders throughoutthe chain of command or as staff officers in the Headquarters Department at regiment and above organizations.

Officers in the political officer career track areusually chosen from officers who have alreadyserved as a platoon or company officer in the military career track, but they can also come from the other three career tracks. Once they are selected for the political career track, they receive training as a political officer. Officers in the logistics, equipment, and technical officer career track attend specialty academies, such as the PLAN Logistics Academy or the Aviation Engineering Academy.

Each career track has sub-specialties, which equate to the appropriate department within the Four General Departments and the PLAN Logistics Department. For example, logistics officers specialize in finance, quartermaster, transportation, materials, fuel, and so on, which equate to the administrative departments under the General Logistics Department.

Technical Officers

The technical officer system was introduced in 1980. Since 1988, technical officers have been divided into three categories (senior, intermediate, and junior), 14 grades (platoon leader to CMC member), and 10 ranks (second lieutenant/ensign to lieutenant general/vice admiral). Technical officers wear the same rank insignia as regular officers, but they wear a special technical officer insignia on their collar.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2013 19:01:10 ZULU