According to the Military Balance 2019, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may possess the largest active-duty tank fleet on the planet, with about 5,800 tanks in operational service. However, Chinese tanks remain relatively little known in the Western world. Therefore, in a two-part series, we first briefly surveyed the operational history of mainland Chinese tank forces, and the development of indigenous Chinese tanks through 1990. In a second part, we looked at the organization and role of contemporary PLA tank units and reviewed Chinese tanks currently in PLA Ground Force, Navy and Air Force service, as well as models exported abroad. Finally, Louis Martin-Vézian provided offiziere.ch with a comprehensive illustration of the last sixty years of Chinese tank design.
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Remark: The illustration is meant to depict the influence of foreign designs, not only direct re-engineering. Also, due to space limitations, we mostly (with a few exceptions) did not focus on sub-variants of Chinese tanks. However, the distinction between a sub-variant and a new tank is at times undeniably arbitrary (as demonstrated by Type 79, formerly known as the Type 69-III).