Now that the vast majority of Chinese civilians have adopted
western-style clothes and trendy urbanites on the hunt for cool
items in tune with world fashion trends, the 2.3 million people
serving in the country's military are also doing a style
Brand new ceremonial and casual uniforms -- and new battle
fatigues -- were unveiled in Hong Kong on July 1, the 10th
anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, unleashing a loud
hurrah from the mainland's enlisted men.
Different from the "97 Style" uniforms issued to garrison troops
in Hong Kong and Macao, this upgrade will allow the mainland's
enlisted to cast off the baggy uniforms developed some 20 years ago
and look even sharper than the garrison troops in Hong Kong and
Dubbed "07 Style", the new ceremonial uniforms for the first
time adopt chest insignia, a mainstay of most western military
uniforms, to reveal wearers'ranks and length of service.
Berets have been introduced as standard-issue summer headgear,
reminiscent of the NATO look, while Navy rank badges move down from
the shoulders to the sleeves in line with international
Years of peace-keeping operations with other international
forces have influenced Chinese designers.
"Increasing global military exchanges have upped the
requirements for PLA uniforms. The new outfits fuse global trends
with Chinese characteristics," said general Liao Xilong, chief of
the PLA General Logistics Department, in an interview with
The current outfits are not very stylish, Liao said, there are
often color mismatches and insufficient varieties to meet the
different dress needs of the forces. Apart from battle fatigues,
military personnel need basic casual uniforms and ceremonial dress
Rising living standards, the modernization of the country's
armed forces and its growing presence in international peacekeeping
operations are also factors behind the decision to upgrade
Working from the"97 Style", designers refined the cut and the
sizing of the uniforms to enhance the appearance of the wearers.
The new casual uniform for spring and autumn fit more tightly
because they have been taken in the chest, waist and bust. Female
servicemen will find their shoe heels have grown by a centimeter
from the previous four centimeters.
Designers focused mainly on improving the aesthetics, quality
and functionality of military outfits, said senior engineer Yang
Tingxin, president of the Quartermaster Equipment Institute (QEI)
responsible for the uniform designs. "It would be impossible to
carry out such a major upgrade if the country's economic strength
hadn't grown rapidly," he said.
Technological and financial constraints meant that up until 1987
Chinese forces were only issued one uniform for working, field
surveys and training when casual uniforms were first
"Letter H uniforms have been ditched once and for all, they're a
thing of the past," said Wu Yu, a QEI senior engineer. "Now we have
letter T uniforms for men and letter X for women".
When compared with military uniforms from other countries,
H-shaped uniforms appear baggy and dull. Men in T-shaped uniforms
that highlight shoulder breadth look taller and stronger; women in
X-shaped uniforms featuring contracted waists are much sassier, she
Ceremonial dress uniforms previously reserved for military
attaches when they were first deployed in 1987 are now available to
all military officers. Tailor-made, they come complete with special
shoes and shirts.
After three years of study, designers made more than a hundred
refinements to the "97 Style" and introduced 365 new items
including sweaters, training boots, gloves, socks, training
overcoats and apparel such as arm badges, name patches and service
"My impression is that the top leaders of the military really
want to make the rank-and-filers look smart and feel comfortable.
They are very open-minded," said Yang Tingxin, who was involved in
the design of "87 Style".
The red band that has been a feature of the big-brimmed green
Army hats for decades has disappeared from the new outfits. Some
critics opposed the change, saying that the color red is the main
symbol of the Communist Party of China. But aesthetics prevailed.
The blaze of red didn't match the green hat and green uniforms.
Instead designers have come up with an enlarged peach-shaped
badge on the hats for all enlisted bearing the insignia of the PLA
Army, Air Force and Navy. A red relief features a star and the
Chinese characters "ba-yi", or eight-one, commemorating the
beginning of the Nanchang Uprising on Aug. 1, 1927, to which the
history of the PLA was officially traced.
Despite the changes, the uniforms retain "key PLA elements and
icons"--- under the command of the Communist Party of China,
serving the people and performing bravely and skillfully in
battles, Liao said.
A dozen traditional icons appear on the new uniforms including
the national flag, the PLA flag, the Great Wall, Tian'anmen Square,
as well as ears of wheat and cog wheels representing the alliance
of farmers and workers which 80 years ago led to the foundation of
the New China.
To commemorate the history of the PLA, historic gray -- the
color worn by the Red Army (1927 to 1937) and the Balujun or Eighth
Route Army (1937-1949) from which the PLA evolved -- was fused with
the current colors, providing a new pine green for the Army, dark
blue for the Navy and deep grey-blue for the Air Force.
"The three colors mesh well and accord with the global trend of
using cold colors for military uniforms," said Yang Tingxin, adding
that there won't be much change in the colors and categories of
Chinese military uniforms in the future.
"Our focus will shift to improving functionality, quality and
recognizability and enriching standard-issues for each category",
he said. "Training and tactical uniforms need more work."
The upgrade will cost China six billion yuan by 2009. But,
despite this, the per capita bedding and clothing expenses of the
Chinese armed forces remains low compared with the world average,
Liao Xilong noted.
"The expenditure cannot be avoided. But we must budget strictly.
By spreading the upgrade over three years, we can make full use of
existing inventory and avoid waste," he said.
Carefully folded uniforms usually arrive at the barracks from
military warehouses. This year, many ceremonial uniforms have come
direct from factory production lines. Delivered on clothes hangers,
they are without a single wrinkle and have the name label of the
wearer stitched on.
"This military dress upgrade is a stride forward in the PLA's
logistics management," said Wang Zongxi, Professor at the PLA
Logistics Command Institute.
Liao Xilong admitted that the PLA had long wanted to provide
servicemen and women with tailor-made ceremonial uniforms. "The
upgrade has taken us a long way towards achieving this goal," he
Manufacturers that won contracts to produce the new ceremonial
uniforms have been required to take the measurements of the
country's 2.3 million military. This massive undertaking has made
it possible to deliver tailor-made uniforms to every eligible
wearer direct from factories to barracks.
Liao said that the Army would no longer keep inventory and no
longer be involved in inventory management for ceremonial uniforms.
"The idea is to outsource inventory management of these uniforms to
private firms and slash our storage costs."
Technological innovation, industrial advances and military
reforms are blurring the divide between defense and civil
industries. Many countries use resources from the private sector to
reduce the size of their military forces and improve their combat
effectiveness. This is a key focus for the PLA in modernizing its
logistics, Liao said.
In February, the Chinese military authorities urged military
areas and units to collaborate more with civil enterprises in order
to improve logistics management.
The government said in late June that it was encouraging weapons
makers in less sensitive sectors to attract private and overseas
investors and increase innovation.
"A uniform upgrade is not just about looking'snappy'. It is part
of a whole system of logistics. The new design concept, new
materials and new technologies improve uniform quality but they are
also hooked in to optimized management of bedding and clothing,"
Thanks to the largest-ever uniform upgrade in China's history,
quartermasters have been able to update measurement statistics and
data on bedding and clothing, and they predict that they will be
able to significantly reduce costs related to uniform and equipment
issue errors. "Uniforms are an excellent point of departure for
experimenting with the outsourcing of military logistics," he
(China.org.cn, Xinhua News Agency July 3, 2007)