'Snappy' makeover for China's army

Armed forces to get new $800m uniforms as China upgrades its military.

    The new look was on show at events marking the Hong Kong handover anniversary [Reuters]

    China's 2.3 million member military is getting a makeover, rolling out a range of new uniforms and battle fatigues that, designers say, will give troops a snappier fit and female soldiers a "sassier" appearance.


    The new outfits fuse global trends with Chinese characteristics

    The multi-million dollar redesign sees the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the world's largest military, ditching the long-standing but poorly-fitting olive green uniforms, trimmed with red and gold insignia.


    In their place, say officials, the new uniforms will switch to "cold colours", removing clashing elements such as scarlet hat bands.


    Referred to as the "07 Style", the makeover will see PLA ground forces donning pine green dress colours, the navy will take dark blue, while air-force personnel will don a deep blue-grey.


    'Baggy and dull'

    The redesign will also make for "sassier"
    women soldiers, officials say [AP]
    In addition women's heels will rise by 1 centimetre to 5 centimetres - part of an upgrade that military designer Wu Yu said would transform the image of China's female soldiers.


    She told Xinhua the switch would drop "baggy and dull" Letter H uniforms which she said were "a thing of the past", in favour of Letter T uniforms for men and Letter X uniforms for women.


    Men in T-shaped uniforms highlight shoulder breadth look taller and stronger, Wu explained, while women in X-shaped uniforms, featuring contracted waists, are "much sassier".


    "The new outfits fuse global trends with Chinese characteristics," General Liao Xilong, chief of the PLA's General Logistics Department, told the official Xinhua news agency.


    The new uniforms went on display for the first time on Sunday, worn by PLA troops in Hong Kong for Sunday's ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the handover from British colonial rule.


    Rising budgets


    Out with the old "baggy" olive
    green uniforms... [GALLO/GETTY]
    Liao said the change was prompted by rising budgets and China's growing involvement in United Nations peacekeeping missions.


    "Increasing global military exchanges have upped the requirements for PLA uniforms," Liao said.


    He said the current outfits, in use for about two decades were "not very stylish", often including colour mismatches and did not have enough variety to meet the different dress needs of the forces.


    Included in the changes is the introduction of berets as standard-issue summer headgear, while badges for naval rank move down from the shoulders to the sleeves in line with international practice.


    The changeover, expected to take about three years, will cost almost $800m.


    The switch comes as China steps up spending on its armed forces to create a better-trained and more technologically-advanced military.


    Officially China's military budget rose this year by 17.8 per cent to $44.9bn, although many outside observers, as well as the CIA, say China's real military expenditure is much higher.


    At the same time, Beijing has stepped up overseas military-to-military exchanges and increased participation in UN peacekeeping missions in places like Africa, the Middle East and Haiti.


    'Big bunch of flowers'


    The new look may take some
    getting used to [Reuters]
    The uniform makeover will also see introduction of a new line of "digital camouflage" designed to help soldiers blend into natural environments.


    The computer-generated designs will make wearers less visible than the current combat fatigues worn by the PLA, the creators say.


    "The camouflage pattern resembles a big bunch of flowers from a distance and crushed gravel close up," senior engineer Zhang Xudong told Xinhua.


    "With the application of pixel-matrix technology, the camouflage functions better as it blurs the divide between different colours."


    Eventually four different camouflage schemes for urban, woodland, desert and ocean environments will be employed, Zhang said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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