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China’s expansion in maritime East Asia has relied heavily on non-naval elements of sea power, above all white-hulled constabulary forces. This reflects a strategic decision. Coast guard vessels operating on the basis of routine administration and backed up by a powerful military can achieve many of China’s objectives without risking an armed clash, sullying China’s reputation, or provoking military intervention from outside powers.
Among China’s many maritime agencies, two organizations particularly fit this bill: China Marine Surveillance (CMS) and China Fisheries Law Enforcement (FLE). With fleets comprising unarmed or lightly armed cutters crewed by civilian administrators, CMS and FLE could vigorously pursue China’s maritime claims while largely avoiding the costs and dangers associated with classic “gunboat diplomacy.”
China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War College
Newport, Rhode Island
China, China Maritime Studies Institute, CMSI, China Marine Surveillance, CMS, China Fisheries Law Enforcement, FLE, China Maritime Police, CMP
Martinson, Ryan D., "China Maritime Report No. 2: The Arming of China’s Maritime Frontier" (2017). CMSI China Maritime Reports. 2.