One of the most difficult aspects of any study on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is deciding on the best method to translate key PLA terms and concepts so that they make sense in a U.S. military context. Unfortunately, most Chinese military dictionaries and encyclopedias provide only a direct English translation for key terms. They do not always provide detailed explanations or definitions for those terms. Furthermore, the PLA is not consistent in how it translates terms, so a single term is often translated several different ways. For example, the PLA translates the term peixun (培训), which is a short form for peiyang xunlian (培养训练), as “cultivation and training,” “development training,” and just “training.” Sometimes, PLA terms cannot be easily translated into English, or the common English translation means something different for the U.S. military than it does for the PLA. For example, a PLA Air Force or Naval Aviation zhongdui, which is normally translated as a squadron, has only two to five aircraft, while a U.S. Air Force squadron has 15 to 24 aircraft. Finally, the PLA does not have a term for “professional military education.”
As part of CASI’s “In Their Own Words” series, we compiled this list of terms and explanations with a focus on the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) to help English speakers studying the PLA understand key terms and concepts. We hope you find it helpful.
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