For several decades the Chinese enjoyed a close working relationship with the Soviet Union. Perks of this relationship included access to Soviet military equipment which was ages ahead of what China could produce locally on its own. Local license production was eventually granted while other designs emerging became illegal copies of originals found elsewhere in the world. Over time, an indigenous initiative arose which allowed the Chinese military to begin designing, developing and mass-producing local weaponry made to exact Chinese specifications. The timing was quite perfect for the Chinese, however, for the Soviet-Chinese relationship broke down in the 1950s on political and ideological grounds - leading to the Sino-Soviet Split of 1960 - and did not recover until the 1990s. In that span, however, the Chinese continued to work from the earned knowledge and developed in-house weapons such as the Type 79 Submachine Gun.
The Type 79 was designed throughout the 1970s to which pre-production models finally emerged in 1981. Serial production then followed in 1983. The weapon became a highly conventional submachine gun design with one major exception - it was designed around a gas-operation (with rotating bolt) while many other submachine guns were generally developed around the blowback system of operation. This led to commonality with other existing Chinese assault and service rifles which were, of course, Soviet in their origin - many Kalashnikov types included. Additionally, the system did not rely on a heavy internal working set and made for a lighter and overall compact weapon. Such a weapon became standard issue for Chinese Army, internal security and special forces elements within time. Beyond that, the Type 79 was traditionally arranged with a large rectangular receiver, hinged folding wire buttstock and integrated pistol grip. Construction was of steel stampings and the weapon was chambered for the Soviet 7.62x25mm Tokarev pistol cartridge which gave good man-stopping capabilities. A safety and fire mode selector were fitted to the right side of the receiver within easy reach of the trigger function (obviously influenced by the Kalashnikov design and arrangement). A 20-round straight detachable box magazine was fitted into a well ahead of the pistol grip and trigger unit in the usual way. The charging handle was set to the right side of the receiver and iron sights were set at the receiver top and at the muzzle. The gas cylinder was mounted over the barrel in the traditional Kalashnikov style.
At its core, the Type 79 was a no-frills submachine gun entry that reportedly gave a good account of itself in a rather busy market. Rate-of-fire was acceptable at 500 rounds per minute and control was deemed good for a weapon of this class. Effective range was out to 200 meters though the Type 79 was ever only really intended for short-to-medium engagements. The weapon went on to see production on a large scale - over 290,000 examples believed produced since inception in 1979 and still ongoing today (2012) - while its gas-operated action gave good service. The Type 79 was eventually simplified with the arrival of the Type 85 Submachine Gun of 1985, this series reverting back to the widely-accepted blowback system of operation and featured a new cylindrical receiver with hinged folding wire stock and curved 30-round detachable box magazine.