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China Military: Army Ranks in Order

There are so many ranks in the Chinese army. For some people, what each rank means and the order in which they progress can be confusing. In this article, I will provide a simple guide to the ranks of the Chinese army in ascending order.

Chinese Army Ranks

Chinese Army Soldier Ranks

  • Private
  • Senior Private
  • Junior Sergeant
  • Sergeant
  • Senior Sergeant
  • Master Sergeant, Fourth Class
  • Master Sergeant, Third Class
  • Master Sergeant, Second Class
  • Master Sergeant First Class

Chinese Army Officer Ranks

  • Trainee
  • Second Lieutenant
  • First Lieutenant
  • Captain
  • Major
  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • Colonel
  • Senior Colonel
  • Major General
  • Lieutenant General
  • General

China Army Soldier Ranks

Below is a more elaborate overview of soldiers’ ranks with the China Army


This is the first and therefore the lowest rank in the People’s Liberation Army. Although, by law, Chinese citizens must serve some form of military service, the majority of soldiers at this rank will be volunteers rather than conscripts.

Senior Private

A soldier will attain this rank after one year of service. They will have learned the ways of the army, but generally, at the end of their second year, they may choose to leave altogether, having fulfilled their service to their country.

Junior Sergeant

For those wishing to make a career out of the army, the next rank is junior sergeant. At this level, they will begin to take on more leadership roles within small units and can be the second in command of a squad. They will usually need around three years to move on to the next rank.


A sergeant will typically have around five to six years of experience within the army and begin to receive more advanced leadership and tactical training. They will often be in charge of a squad or other small unit.

Senior Sergeant

At the senior sergeant rank, the soldier will begin to fulfill and be trained in more technical roles. They will usually have to attain some form of degree at an army school and continue their education to advance through the ranks.

Master Sergeant, Fourth Class 

This rank is the lowest of the four classes of the Master Sergeant rank. To progress to this rank, they will need several years of experience as a senior sergeant and will usually begin to specialize in certain areas of the army.

Master Sergeant, Third Class

This is the first of three ranks considered to be senior NCO ranks. Holding this rank will require the soldier to have completed further study. Within a unit, they may take on advanced educational roles or hold administrative jobs.

Master Sergeant, Second Class

A Second Class Master Sergeant will have spent several years in the third class role and be considered one of the most senior members of a unit. They will usually provide guidance and training to the junior NCOs and other soldiers.

Master Sergeant, First Class

This rank is the highest of the soldier ranks and will usually take at least 10 to 15 years of service to attain. Soldiers at this rank are extremely experienced and often act as a conduit between the soldiers and the officers.

China Army Officer Ranks

Below is a more elaborate overview of officers’ ranks with the China Army


This rank is held by those attending an officer training school. As they progress and successfully complete their training, they will move on to the first of the officer ranks.

Second Lieutenant

A second lieutenant is considered a junior officer role and will usually serve as a platoon leader. They will still rely on their senior NCOs at this point as they gain experience and develop their skills.

First Lieutenant

Within the PLA, a First Lieutenant can take on the role of second in charge of a company. They will have gained much experience by this time and will look to further their career with more education.


A captain will typically be in charge of a company and may have anywhere from eight to 10 years of experience by this stage. In non-combat roles, they may be placed in charge of larger groups of soldiers.


A major is the first of the field-grade officer ranks. They can usually take command of a battalion, which is equivalent to three companies. At this stage, they have proven themselves to be efficient and effective leaders.

Lieutenant Colonel

A Lieutenant Colonel may be placed second in command of a regiment or take on further non-combat roles within education and training schools.


A Colonel will usually take command of a regiment and, by this point, have well over 20 years of experience in the army. They’ve received extensive training and are looked up to by junior officers as examples of leadership.

Senior Colonel

This is the highest of the field-grade officer ranks. The Senior Colonel may take command of a division, and at this level, they answer to the General staff.

Major General

The lowest of the general ranks, a Major General will likely be in charge of an army group. They will usually be involved at the government level at this point.

Lieutenant General

A Lieutenant General may take command of a whole area or theater in times of war or for training purposes. Much the same as the Major General, their ties at the government level are strong.


This is the highest rank in the People’s Liberation Army. A General will hold high esteem within the government as well as the army itself. They have the ability to make effective changes to the army but would not typically take command of groups of soldiers.

China Army Ranks List 

Private1st  rank, mostly volunteers
Senior PrivateLearned the ways of the army
Junior SergeantBegin to take on leadership train
SergeantAdvanced leadership & tactical training
Senior SergeantTrained in technical roles
Master Sergeant, 4th ClassSpecialized Areas in the Army
Master Sergeant, 3rd ClassAdvanced Educational or Administrative jobs
Master Sergeant, 2nd ClassProvides Guidance & Training to Junior NCOs
Master Sergeant, 1st ClassConduit between Soldiers & Officers.
Trainee (Officer candidate)Attends Officer Training School
2nd LieutenantJunior officer role, Platoon Leader
1st Lieutenant2nd in command of a Company
CaptainCommands a Company
MajorCommands a Battalion
Lieutenant Colonel2nd in Command of a regiment or training roles
ColonelCommands a Regiment
Senior ColonelCommands a Division
Major GeneralIn charge of the Army Group
Lieutenant GeneralCommand of a whole area or theater
GeneralHighest rank & hold high esteem within the China Government and Army.

Chinese Army Rank Progression Chart

Years of ServiceExpected Rank
Entry LevelPrivate
After 1 YearSenior Private
After 2-3 yearsJunior Sergeant
After 5–6 yearsSergeant
Varies; must attain a degreeSenior Sergeant
Varies, after several years as Senior SergeantMaster Sergeant, 4th Class
Varies; must complete further study.Master Sergeant, 3r Class
Varies, several years as 3rd ClassMaster Sergeant, 2nd Class
10-15 YearsMaster Sergeant, 1st Class
Varies, Officer TrainingTrainee (Officer candidate)
Varies2nd Lieutenant
Varies1st Lieutenant
8-10 YearsCaptain
Varies, proven leadershipMajor
VariesLieutenant Colonel
Over 20 YearsColonel
VariesSenior Colonel
Varies; involved at a government levelMajor General
VariesLieutenant General
Varies, long-term serviceGeneral

Comparison Table: Chinese vs US Army Ranks

Chinese Army RanksUS Army Ranks
Senior PrivatePrivate First Class
Junior SergeantCorporal/Specialist
Senior SergeantStaff Sergeant
Master Sergeant, 4th ClassSergeant First Class
Master Sergeant, 3rd ClassMaster Sergeant/First Sergeant
Master Sergeant, 2nd ClassSergeant Major
Master Sergeant, 1stClassCommand Sergeant Major
Trainee (Officer candidate)Cadet
2nd Lieutenant2nd Lieutenant
1st Lieutenant1st Lieutenant
Lieutenant ColonelLieutenant Colonel
Senior ColonelN/A
Major GeneralBrigadier General
Lieutenant GeneralMajor General
GeneralLieutenant General

What do you think of the ranks of the Chinese army? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below. As always, thanks for reading. 

George N.