The Medals:

During the last period of the "liberation" of China and thereafter the men of the People's Liberation Army received and wore a variety of awards, including for the individual campaigns and for merit and bravery. In 1955 a new series of major decorations was introduced as the armed forces were revamped into the modern Soviet style. In September of that year Mao Tse-tung in a ceremony in Beijing conferred the rank of marshal on the PLA’S senior officers and gave decorations to some 500 of the flag officers. In the late 1950's, however, as Mao pushed a more radical course, medals and ribbons largely disappeared to be replaced during the Cultural Revolution by the ubiquitous Mao button.

By 1979, however, China was again on a more rational and modernizing course, and one small aspect of that was the return of medals in the PLA. On September 17, 1979, large public ceremonies were held in the South China provinces of Kwangsi and Kwangtung to honor the heroes of the "Defensive Counterattack." Photographs in the December "Jiefangjun Huabao" (People's Liberation Army Pictorial) show the soldiers wearing their awards. Apparently these included both medals authorized by the general political department and those given by a province.

Chinese medals have taken a variety of forms, although generally reflecting a Russian model. Thus the stars of the high orders and the pentagonal ribbons of some awards resemble the Soviet equivalents. But a number of the campaign medals have been badges without ribbons, and this is the case of those for the "Defensive Counterattack."

-John Sylvester Jr.