What the license plates in China mean?

Chinese are crazy about cars. And as a result of the economic developments most people are now able to afford a car or two. Due to this violent increase in car ownership demand especially in urban areas, the Chinese government had to devise ways to control it. Today, the issue of new license plates is an effective lever when it comes to curbing private car ownership. In Beijing license plates are issued through a lottery with a winning chance of about 10-20%. There have been stories of people waiting for years to be finally be able to legally drive their car and stories of people winning plates every month and selling them on the black market for a nice profit.

This plate may have been more expensive than the car

This plate may have been more expensive than the car

The actual Beijing license plates

License plates in Beijing are full of information, you just have to know how to read them. In Beijing you will mostly come across the 京 license plates. They are followed by a letter telling you if they are urban area, suburb, taxi etc. license plates. They are normally blue plates with white lettering although at times you will come across white plates with black and red lettering. Those are VIP plates used by embassies (使) or military. You may also be able to observe some white on blue plates with different lettering or characters. Those are from other provinces, the Chinese character will usually tell you where they are from.

army plate

Don't mess with me

The right of the strong

In Beijing there are two clear cut hierarchies on the streets. Generally, the more luxurious your car the more inconsiderate will you be driving. And then, the more important your license plate the more inconsiderate will you be driving. An important license plate beats the luxury of a car, however, which is why most rich people find one or the other way to get their hands on a VIP license plate. Either they are already high up in government (very common case) or they befriend such people. Either way, the rich have ways to underscore their privileged status which can truly go so far as you getting involved in a traffic accident which was clearly the other's fault but you get charged because he or she has a VIP plate. It's nothing personal, it's just China. 、

embassy plate

Or me

Some license plates you may see in Beijing