People’s Liberation Army Special Operations Forces

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Chinese Special Forces

Chinese Special Forces

The People’s Liberation Army Special Operations Forces (中国特种部队/中國特種部隊) is the sub-branch of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Ground Force that specialises in rapid reaction combat in a limited regional war under high-tech conditions. An estimated 50,000 PLA troops are in the Special Operations Forces.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) formed its “first special mission, quick reaction unit” in the Guangzhou Military Region (MR) during the mid- to late 1980s. Over the next 10 years,

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this unit would evolve and proliferate to every MR in China. There were two main reasons for this evolution. First, the PLA was shifting its doctrine from the “People’s War” to fighting a “Local War Under High-Technology Conditions.” The Chinese believe their next war will be a short, rapid-paced conflict on their periphery rather than a protracted war of attrition on friendly terrain. Secondly, the PLA was impressed by the capabilities of American and Coalition special operations forces (SOFs) during the Persian Gulf War. The war prompted the Chinese to accelerate the formation of modern, professional SOFs capable of providing the PLA with timely reconnaissance and direct action (DA) capabilities.

  • Guangzhou Military Region Special Forces Unit – Established in 1988 as the PLA’s first special reconnaissance group, and was later expanded in 2000 to become the first PLA special operations unit to be capable of air-, sea-, and land-operations.
  • Chengdu Military Region Special Forces Unit – Nickname “Falcon”. Established in 1992, this unit is specialised in target locating and indicating, airborne insertion, sabotage and offensive strike, and emergency evacuation. The unit was also used by Chengdu MR to experiment various new concept equipments and tactics, including the digitised army soldier system and high-mobility land weapon platforms.
  • Beijing Military Region Special Forces Unit – Established in the early 1990s, this unit is equipped with various “high-tech” equipment including unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle (UARV), individual explosion device, handheld laser dazzling weapon, etc.
  • Shenyang Military Region Special Forces Unit
  • Nanjing Military Region Special Forces Unit – Nickname “Flying Dragon”
  • Nanjing Military Region Special Forces Unit – Nickname “Oscar”
  • Lanzhou Military Region Special Forces Unit