China Cracks Down On Military Plate Abuse

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
china cracks down on military plate abuse

Thousands of Chinese have to say zai jian (good bye) to a cherished symbol of wealth and power: Their white military license plate. “China’s new leadership is seeking to dismantle a system of privilege which has allowed the drivers of military vehicles to do as they please on the road,” writes Reuters. “On Sunday the Chinese military began replacing license plates on its cars and trucks to crack down on legions of vehicles, many of them plush luxury brands, which routinely break traffic laws and fill up with free gas.”

Don’t think these “military vehicles” were all drab and green. Says Reuters:

“Luxury sedans and sport utility vehicles with PLA and People’s Armed Police license plates gliding through red lights or flashing lights and sirens to push aside cars in front of them are a common sight in China.”

Friends and family members received military plates as favors. This was exacerbated by a flood of fake military plates

This is about to change. The new plates are electronic ally encoded. The number of people entitled to use military plates will be drastically curtailed. White plates must be removed from luxury vehicles. Says China’s state-controlled Xinhua News Service:

“Luxury vehicles were specified as those with the marks Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lincoln, Cadillac, Volkswagen Phaeton, Bentley, Jaguar, Porsche, and any car with an emission above 3.0 and priced over 450,000 yuan (72,990 U.S. dollars), as well as SUVs including Land Rover, Porsche Cayenne, and Audi Q7, among others.”

Beijing had previously announced plans to stop government agencies from buying foreign cars. TTAC never took these plans seriously, and they were roundly ignored. The new plan seems to have more bite and less bark. One indication: “Absent from Xinhua’s published list,” says Reuters, “were Audi sedans, the clear preference among Chinese officials with access to government cars.” By excluding Audi from the banned list, the Chinese government signals that this time, it means it.

However, there is very little the new policy can achieve against a tactic described by to the South China Morning Post Professor Chen Jierong , who teaches law at Sichuan University in Chengdu:

“It is a common practice in Beijing for an Audi A8, with a real [military] plate, real paperwork and a real driver in a military uniform, to be leased out by a senior military officer to a businessman,” he said. “The businessman pays 800,000 yuan a year but gets many benefits in return, such as giving others the impression that he has strong ties to the military. It happens not only in Beijing, but in every city.”

The professor figures that the new regulations would reduce the number of luxury cars with military plates on China’s street only for a while. “I am sure many expensive cars with military plates will re-emerge soon,” he said. “They have been banned five times over the last few decades, but more emerged after each ban. This time will be the same.”

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  • Dtremit Dtremit on Apr 30, 2013

    At least someone still thinks Lincoln is a luxury marque?

  • Daveainchina Daveainchina on Apr 30, 2013

    As for the abuses of the military, do they think changing plates is going to make a difference? The military cars will still park on the sidewalk, they will still run red lights, they will still ignore traffic tickets. Police will continue to ignore them and nothing will change.

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