Insignia of China
Chinese Republic 1914-1920s
China's first military aircraft, a dozen Caudron G.IlIs delivered in July 1913, used a five pointed star marking and retained traditional Chinese colours representing the main ethnic groups: Han Chinese, Mongol, Manchu, Tibetan and Moslem. Chinese aircraft saw action on several fronts between 1913 and 1917, including action against Mongolia, fighting in the Hunan White Wolf rising and operations against Sun Yat-sen's southern army. This air force broke up in the 1920s with the rise of the warlords and provincial governments.
KMT/Central Government, Nanking 1925-1938
Sun Yat-sen's revolution in 1923 and his Nationalist (Kuomintang - KMT) regime saw the establishment of a central air force at Nanking. KMT Aviation Bureaus in 1925 were set up with Soviet aircraft and training assistance. The well known twelve pointed star and blue disc marking was introduced at this time, though before 1927 these generally used a Red outline similar to those illustrated for the Kwangsi Air Force. Other warlords and provincial governments eventually joined up with the central government in the effort to fight the Japanese.
Chinese Naval Aviation 1927-1938
A small naval aviation detachment was first formed at Foochow, but amounted to little. The KMT operated a small Naval Air Service between 1927 and 1938. Markings were not uniformly applied, and several variations in markings were used in addition to those already illustrated for the Central Government.
Kwangsi Air Force 1924-1937
Around 60 aircraft in total were operated by Kwangsi Air Force, which opposed the KMT government. Following the outbreak of war with Japan, the Kwangsi Air Force amalgamated with the KMT forces in July1937.
Shantung Air Force 1925-1928
In 1925 Shantung Warlord Chang Tsung-ch'ang set up an aviation training school. Then it was expanded with the help of Manchurian Air Force. A number of Junkers aircrafts including F-13, K-53 were bought. In 1928 all aircrafts were flown to Mukden and merged with Manchurian Air Force.
Manchurian Air Force pre-1931
Manchuria was ruled by the Warlord Chang Tso-Iin until 1925, when his son Chang Hsueh-liang succeeded him. In that same year, the province switched its allegiance to the central KMT government, though it maintained an autonomous air force at Mukden. It should also be noted that both Changs also maintained their own private air forces at Fengtein in addition to controlling the Manchurian Air Force. To confuse the situation even further, Marshall Chang Tsoin's commander-in-chief, Chan Tsung-chang, also maintained an air force at Tsinanpu (details below).
Manchurian Air Force pre-1931
The insignia illustrated here are supposed alternative renditions of the Manchurian Air Force markings. It is believed that the example shown as drawing F could be a mis-interpretation of this variant. The tail striping shown here could also have been made up with the Red band replaced with Red, Blue and Yellow stripes.
Chung Shan Aviation Team 1921-1925
Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the first president of China, established a small air force in Canton.The Chinese character was used after his death on 12th March,1925.
Manchukuo Air Transport Company (MKKK) 1932-1945
Occupied by the Japanese in 1931/32, Manchuria's air force was partially revived in September 1932. The Japanese occupation forces formed a para-military airline, the Manchurian Air Transport Co. (Manchu Kokuyuso Kabushiki Kaisha - MKKK) that acted as a puppet air force in support of Japan, performing transport and photographic reconnaissance tasks. The two main variants of markings used are illustrated at figures H and I. The inventory of the MKKK is listed below, together with a list of other types used in Manchuria/Manchukuo that cannot be assigned to any particular air arm.
Manchukuo Air Force 1938-1945
A fully fledged Manchukuo Air Force was formed around 1938 by the Japanese, and aircraft wore the horizontally striped roundels as illustrated on the wings only. By 1944 this air force was struggling to survive, and had crumbled by the time of the Japanese surrender, though there are reports of action against occupying Soviet forces in August 1945.
Reformed Government of China 1938-1940
Under the Japanese occupation, the areas around Nanking and China were allowed to form puppet governments under warlords who controlled internal security. The Reformed Government of China Air Force was formed in 1938 when it acquired Japanese gliders for pilot training purposes.
National Government of China Air Force 1940-1945
The National Government of China was formed in 1940 by the combination of the Nanking and Peking governments. Japan allowed the formation of an air force, also known as the National Government of China Air Force or Cochin China Air Force. A unit equipped with Nakajima Ki 27 fighters was proposed, but the Japanese never trusted the Chinese enough to allow delivery.
Canton Air Force 1933-1936
Under General Wong Kwang-yu, the Canton Air Force operated around 90 aircraft. Red-outlined roundels, similar to those illustrated in figure E were used on wings and rudders. Further information on this air force can be found in Insignia issue 5. This air arm defected en-masse to the KMT in July 1936.
Kweichow Air Force 1933-1936
In February 1933 General Wang Chia-lieh assumed governorship in Kweichow. A Military Aviation School was to be formed at Kweiyang under Brig-General Chou Yi-ping (Chow Yat-ping), the Commandant of the Kweichow Army Air Corps. There was a small number of Fleet training machines at Kweiyang. The Central Nanking Government gained control over Kweichow in January 1935.
Other Air Forces
Some of the other warlord, provincial and communist air forces operated between 1920 and 1949, and are listed below. Markings are unknown at present.
Republic of China Air Force
After 1991, the roundel of Republic of China air force has changed. It includes both normal and low-visibility type.