SHANGHAI, China – China is rolling out sleeker uniforms for its 2.3 million-member military, prompted by a bigger budget and growing involvement in U.N. peacekeeping, state media said Monday.
The uniform of the People's Liberation Army — plain, baggy green with red and gold insignia — had changed little in more than two decades since China opened up its economy and relaxed social controls.
The new uniforms will be cut closer for a snappier appearance and include casual and dress styles, along with battle fatigues.
Ground forces will be in pine green, the navy in dark blue and the air force in deep blue-grey. "Increasing global military exchanges have upped the requirements for PLA uniforms. The new outfits fuse global trends with Chinese characteristics," Gen. Liao Xilong, chief of the PLA's General Logistics Department, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
The switch comes as China attempts to boost technology and training for the world's largest military while improving the quality of life for soldiers and attracting better-qualified recruits.
China hiked its military budget this year by $44.9 billion, and officers said the extra funds would be split among improving salaries and pensions, new uniforms, and military education.
At the same time, China has stepped up overseas military exchanges and increasingly taken part in peacekeeping missions, sending forces to Africa, the Middle East and Haiti. That has exposed Chinese troops to new ways of training and operating and different kinds of equipment.
The PLA uniform has undergone a series of redesigns since the military's birth as a volunteer communist guerrilla army, even abandoning rank and insignia altogether during the egalitarian era of the 1967-77 Cultural Revolution.
Referred to as "07 Style," the latest uniforms adopt the growing international trend of "cold colors," removing clashing elements such as scarlet hat bands and changing insignia to blend with the overall shade.
Women's heels will rise by 0.4 inches to 2 inches. Dress uniforms will include chest insignia in keeping with standard international practice, Xinhua said.
Traditional decorations and insignia will remain, however, including the national flag, the PLA flag, and images of the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square.
Garrison troops in Hong Kong switched over to the new uniforms in time for Sunday's celebration of the 10th anniversary of former British colony's handover to China.
Troops in Beijing and the Macau Special Administrative Region will change over on Aug. 1, which is army day, Xinhua said. Forces elsewhere will make the switch over the next three years, it said.
"The expenditure on new army uniforms is necessary because uniforms serve as the name card of a country, revealing the discipline and bearing of armed forces," Xinhua quoted Liao as saying.