China’s recent amendment to its Law on the People’s Armed Police Force has, in effect, made the Chinese Coast Guard an auxiliary navy, and should be a warning to neighboring countries to the east and south of China, a Taiwanese researcher said in an article published by the Institute for National Defense and Security Research.
After the State Council of the People’s Republic of China was reformed in 2018, the Chinese Coast Guard was reassigned from the now-defunct State Oceanic Administration to the People’s Armed Police as the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force Coast Guard Corps, said Wang Tsun-yen (王尊彥), an assistant research fellow at the government-funded institute’s non-traditional security and military division.
The reassignment placed the coast guard under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Military Commission and it cannot be mobilized without the commission’s approval, he said.
The amendment was approved on June 20.
The amendment clarifies the role of the coast guard in the Chinese armed forces, essentially making it an auxiliary naval branch that can perform joint operations with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and augment its combat capabilities during war, Wang said.
Wang said he believes that the amendment was an attempt by Beijing to further rein in the power given to the coast guard, as it has been responsible for multiple altercations with ships from other countries.
Wang cited the ramming and sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat by the coast guard on April 2, the chasing of Japanese ships in Japanese territorial waters on May 8 and the ramming of a Vietnamese fishing boat on June 10 near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島).
The coast guard’s activities might have been “out of line” and damaged China’s reputation internationally, prompting the CCP to make the amendments, which allowed it to flesh out the coast guard’s war-time role and maintain Beijing’s diplomatic policy of friendship, good faith, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, Wang said.
Tsuya Hisashi, a commentator at Japanese public broadcaster NHK, said that in recent patrols near the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), Chinese coast guard formations — two groups of two ships each operating independently of each other and following more convoluted patrol routes — have proven troublesome for the Japan Coast Guard.
Wang said that if Japan, which has a top-notch coast guard, was finding it difficult to anticipate Chinese patrol patterns, nations in the South China Sea would find it even more difficult.
All countries should be keeping a close eye on how China outfits and trains its coast guard, particularly when it is conducting drills with the PLAN, he added.
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