Using Chinese ID Numbers in Investigations

Resident ID Numbers

Since 1985, all Chinese citizens above 16 years of age have been required to hold a Resident Identity Card (居民身份证) issued by the Ministry of Public Security. Each card is printed with basic identifying information, including a unique 16-digit identification number that encodes important biographical information about the individual. These ID numbers can be interpreted as follows:
  • AAAAAA – The first six digits of the number are a location code that corresponds to one of China’s 2862 county-level administrative divisions. For individuals born after 1985, this location is their place of birth; for individuals born prior to 1985, this location is their officially-registered residence at the time they first applied for a Resident Identity Card. This number does not change when an individual changes residence.
  • YYYYMMDD – The next eight digits of the number are the individual’s date of birth, listed in Chinese date order (year, month, date).
  • GGGN – The first three digits (GGG) are a code used to differentiate people born on the same day in the same administrative division. If this code is odd, the individual is male; if it is even, the individual is female. The final digit or letter is a checksum calculated from the other digits in the ID number.

Passport Numbers

Understanding the structure of Chinese passport numbers can help analysts identify whether the passport holder is a government official or a diplomat.

Chinese passport numbers (护照) are 9 characters long – either a single letter plus eight numerals, or two letters plus seven numerals. Electronic passports include in E in the first two characters.

  • Diplomatic (D/DE): Used by diplomats. Only good for five years.
  • Service (S/SE): Used by government officials who are abroad on official business; this includes families of diplomats and senior government officials. Only good for five years.
  • Service General (S/SE): Used by lower-ranking government officials (副处级 and below) who are abroad on official business; also available for anyone else abroad on official business, such as laborers or journalists. Only good for five years.
  • General (G/E): Used by the general population for personal travel; the most common form of passport. Good for ten years if issued to a person age sixteen or above.

Thanks for Reading!