Authors: Dr. Mike Chia-Yu Huang
Chinese President Xi Jinping has introduced far-ranging measures to “build China into a maritime power (建设海洋强国)” since his inauguration in November 2012. One notable institutional reform was the birth of a new China Coast Guard (CCG) force. Created in July 2013, this new force shall undertake coordinated maritime law enforcement operations in China’s territorial waters. Based on detailed examination of the progress of the reform, this paper argues that the operational and administrative functions of the CCG have been, although not fully, developed so far and the old problem of disjointed patrol operations undertaken by five loosely coordinated maritime law enforcement forces, the “five dragons,” has significantly been eased. Nevertheless, the development of the CCG is still a work- in-progress. Firstly, comprehensive legal foundations for the CCG’s operations are incomplete, making the legal status and the standard of operation for this new agency unclear. Moreover, the Chinese Government’s decision not to incorporate the Maritime Safety Administration into the CCG not only reveals the complexity of this reform but also suggests that Beijing is adopting an old logic of “crossing the river by feeling the stones (摸着石头过河)” while still pledging to resolutely defend what it believes are its indisputable maritime rights.
Keywords: China; maritime power; China Coast Guard; interagency coordination