The Chinese are a civilization that focuses more on economy than military. As such, they have many economic bonuses, and are a "jack-of-all-trades" civilization that can specialize well in both defense and offense.
They start out with extra villagers and their Town Centers support extra population. This gives them an edge early in the game as they can gather resources more quickly. They can also research technologies at cheaper prices, allowing them to divert the saved resources into either more villagers or extra military units. In terms of military they have many options. They have full archer and infantry technologies so foot soldiers will compose the majority of a Chinese army most of the time. Their unique unit, the Chu Ko Nu, is a crossbowman with a short range but shoots multiple arrows at a time. In groups these can provide powerful close range support. They have access to all siege weapons except the Siege Onager and the Bombard Cannon. Their unique technology, Rocketry, makes their Chu Ku Nus and Heavy Scorpion potentially deadly and allow them to excel in long range sieging.
The disadvantages of the Chinese is that their late game cavalry is weaker than their infantry and archers. They are missing both the Paladin and Hussar putting both their heavy and light cavalry at a disadvantage late in the game. However they can train camels, giving them fast anti-cavalry capabilities that their infantry lack. In addition while they can attack and defend about equally well they don't stand out in either as they lack military bonuses.
They also lack two important late game gunpowder units such as the Hand Cannoneer and Bombard Cannon (which is ironic, since the cannon was invented in China). However, the Chu Ko Nu and their Heavy Scorpions can do a similar job like the Hand Cannoneer and Bombard Cannon in a somewhat weaker degree. Their Heavy Scorpions are not as good as they could be, since they lack Siege Engineers.
The Chinese are also known to be incredibly difficult to play properly because of their unusual startup of having three extra villagers, but no food and a bit less wood. This requires a lot more micromanagement in the early game in order the tradeoff to pay off. Inappropriate Dark Age micromanagement of the extra Villagers will cause the Chinese to fall greatly behind in the early game. Under skillful hands, however, the Chinese are a solid jack-of-all-trades civilization that is similar to the Byzantines.
Chinese have a much different start-up than other Civilizations. Starting with extra Villagers but no food and less wood means that they can't immediately make any Villagers. So the Chinese must start by researching Loom, since the Town Center will be idle. having extra villagers could help to find the sheep sooner, and then the Chinese must set some Villagers (usually all six) to start harvesting them. Before the player find the sheep, their Villagers can chop some of the wood near the Town Center, build houses, forage for berries, or a mix of those. Extra Lumberjacks are important, since Chinese start with less wood. Chinese farms also have extra food, making Dark Age farming a more viable tactic.
Chinese are a rather versatile civilization, being a jack-of-all-trades civilization that is capable of using many different strategies. Cavalry Archer and Knight rushes are viable tactics due to cheaper costs of the related upgrade techs, despite missing out on the Paladin upgrade and Parthian Tactics. The Chinese have a reasonable Monk rush strategy thanks to cheaper Monastery techs and having nearly every Monastery tech except for Block Printing and Heresy (which is ironic, considering that Block Printing was invented in China). They truly shine in the Post-Imperial Age, though. In a team game, Chinese players should typically try to be in the pocket position (between two allies) and have a large economic boom. In the Imperial Age, Chu Ko Nu are extremely deadly when massed, even cutting through foes with high pierce armor such as Paladins and Eagle Warriors. Even Rams fall to Chu Ko Nu in mere seconds. The Chu Ko Nu, combined with their Rocketry technology, their Heavy Scorpions, and the Trebuchet, makes Chinese one of the best civilizations for long range sieging rivaling the Mongols, Huns, Britons, Turks, and the Japanese.
Most of the threats to Chinese come early on, while they are trying to boom. So the player must wall off with buildings and Palisades to try to keep out early-game rushes, and age up quickly. Likewise, civilizations with strong rushing tactics (particularly cavalry civilizations like Berbers, Huns, and Mongols) can shut the Chinese down early game.
Chinese have an excellent navy on water maps. Fish provide a potent supplement to their already great economy, and should be taken advantage of. Chinese Demolition Ships are also a good unconventional surprise for careless opponents. By the time the horn sounds they've already lost a large portion of their navy, assuming that it wasn't spread out. Using multiple Demolition Ships from different angles at the same time is especially powerful.
Strategy changes in The Forgotten Edit
Chinese new Tech Great Wall allows them to make good and strong defenses, Chinese already have Architecture and other building techs. Their new bonus of +5 line of sight for their town centers makes them even better.
Strategy Changes in The African Kingdoms Edit
The introduction of the Demolition Raft in Feudal age gives to the Chinese navy an early naval advantage as this vessel benefit from the Chinese hit point bonus for demolition ships.
The Chinese works well with different civilizations and can fit into different variety of playstyles. Allying with the Britons allow archery units like Elite Skirmisher and Heavy Cavalry Archer be trained faster and add more variety in their long range sieging, although it should be noted that Chu Ko Nu can only be built in the Castle and is far more superior than the Arbalest. Allying with the Celts will allow the player to build Heavy Scorpions faster. The Saracens are also a good choice as an ally as the Chu Ko Nu can benefit from the bonus damage against the building, hence allowing them to destroy towns more quickly. The Magyars are also useful allies, as their team bonus can improve the Chu Ko Nu line of sight. Having a Berber ally also means extra tricks in the Chinese players' sleeves: team-wide Kasbah upgrade allows them to spawn both Chu Ko Nus and Trebuchets quicker; nimble, gold-free, fully-teched Genitours for counter-archer measure to safeguard Chu Ko Nus and other Chinese foot units, plus rejuvenatable camelry and hand cannoneers for extra support they needed most. Indian players can also receive more productive farms by granting Chinese camelry anti-building attack boost and cover fire by their own hand cannoneers with Shatagni upgrade.
For defensive gameplay, allying the Mayans is a good choice as it makes the wall cheaper combined with the Great Wall unique technology. For economic boom strategies the Spanish and the Incas are good choices as the Spanish provide more gold through Trade Carts. The Inca and the Chinese team bonuses have great synergy with each other, as it give the Inca farms more food and the Inca's farm building speed bonus will help the Chinese to offset the already lower food output of their farms due to their team bonus and the lack of access to Crop Rotation. The Teutons strongly benefit from the farm bonus due to their already cheaper farms, and the Teutons' conversion resistance is somewhat beneficial since the Chinese lack Heresy and thus it helps to have some of the more expensive units such as Knights, Scorpions, and Cavalry Archers less vulnerable to conversion. Malians are considered to be the best allies for the Chinese because the Malian wood discount on buildings applies to their farms, and the Chinese greatly benefit from the Malian increased research speed of Universities since they already have good defensive capacity thanks to having access to nearly every building ugrade and the Great Wall unique tech.
Southeast Asian civilizations, if allied with the Chinese, can also deliver at least two supplementary elements they direly need: Battle Elephants as meatshields to screen the Chu Ko Nus and Bombard Cannons as late-game multipurpose firepower support. Apart from that, Malay ally allows them to spot invading ships quicker, thus amass Demolition Ships on time to disrupt any water rush or hostile armies crossing nearby shallows; while the Khmer grant range boost for Rocketry-enhanced Chinese scorpions, not only provide cover fire with real hand cannoneers. The Vietnamese also get on well with them, not only because the Imperial Skirmisher upgrade from their team bonus enriching their counterunit roster, but also can bankroll them with the Paper Money technology, allowing more Chu Ko Nus, Scorpions and Heavy Demolition Ships to be assembled in a short period.