Observe and Report: Civilian Guide to Official Uniforms

UniformChina’s broadly assigned law enforcement officers are seen on the street with similar uniforms in green, blue or white, sometimes confusing citizens in need. Lessons have been learned that asking the wrong officer to help can be made in vain. Having a general idea of the missions and uniforms of law enforcement officers will clear our curiosity and help in understanding the city.

The Police


In 1902 the Qing government set up the first Western-style police department, regulating their uniforms in 1908. Under different reigns throughout the 20th century, police uniforms have been changed, and branded with marks of the times. During the People’s Republic era, the uniform was improved seven times before evolving into its current adaptation, Style 99, released in 1999.

In China, people’s police is a broad concept including five branches: Public Security Department, the principal police responsible for day-to-day law enforcement; State Security Department, China’s foreign intelligence agency also involved in domestic security matters; the Justice Department, responsible for legal affairs such as drafting legislation; People’s Court and People’s Procuratorate, the latter is responsible for both prosecution and investigation.

The new uniform affected over 1.6 million police personnel nationwide, taking the modern deep blue color to line up with international trends. It was also the first tailor-made police uniform in the history of the People’s Republic, consisting of three standards; for high-ranking officers (with white shirts), people’s police and traffic police. The most commonly seen on the street or in the media are the formal deep blue suits and the less-formal light blue shirt for patrol or daily office work.

Identify yourself: To differentiate their uniform among the five branches of people’s police, the arm badge and lapel pin are two crucial parts. The badges on their left arm are printed in deep blue with silver characters and the image of the Great Wall, where an abbreviation of the branch name will be presented above the image. Like the badge, the two character branch name stands out on the silver lapel pin.

Zhi’An Yuan

uniform2In Dongguan, this group has long been criticized since forming in the 1980s, due to low access and low payment, attracting mainly low-educated people who desperately need a job. They are employed by the local police station or village government to assist with patrol and daily public security protection. However, in recent years, the unregulated force of 50,000 has gradually been merged into the police system, for suitable management like qualification exams, better pay and uniforms.

Identify yourself: The new uniform created for qualified Zhi’An Yuan is similar to the police’s patrol outfit, replacing the non-unified uniform they used to wear, such as camouflage and security guard uniforms.

Fire Department & Military System

uniform3Although they’re under the administration of the Ministry of Public Security, fire departments are part of the People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary force in China. Fire departments are not only in charge of fighting fires and public emergencies, they’re also tasked with secondary military responsibilities. Originating from the People’s Liberation Army, through years of name changes and reorganization, the People’s Armed Police was created to handle internal security and other domestic police missions such as border control, internal security and fire rescue.

Identify yourself: Therefore, the firemen in China wear military uniforms, which are olive green and use military ranking emblems. Special black outfits with reflective stripes are applied when tasked with fire fighting.


uniform4Since the negative exposure for using excessive force on street venders in recent years, Chengguan has been a widely recognized term for the City Urban Administrative and Enforcement Bureau, a local government agency that is in charge of the infrastructure management, greenery, public sanitation, city appearance, garbage disposal and more. However, in Dongguan, the officers seen on the street are actually from another department, the Dongguan City Urban Management Comprehensive Enforcement Bureau, which was established in 2007 as one of the experimental provincial cities. With the mission of the enforcement of unban management, as well as the enforcement function of the bureaus in city planning, environmental protection, sanitation, industry and commerce, quality supervision, food and drug administration, demolition management and more, the agency basically deals with low-level crime.

Identify yourself: The law enforcement officers are most-sighted on streets wearing similar style with the police uniform, but in white shirts, white hats and black pants.