BEIJING BOLSTERS THE ROLE OF THE CHINA COAST GUARD


BY SUMATHY PERMAL | MARCH 1, 2021
AMTI UPDATE

Beijing’s South China Sea moves have ramped up with the passing of a law allowing the China Coast Guard (CCG) to fire on what it identifies as illegal foreign vessels in waters under its jurisdiction. By virtue of China’s nine-dash line claim, this law applies to the entire South China Sea. Given that China’s claims are opposed by other South China Sea claimants as well as numerous non-claimant countries, the law has proven controversial and raises concerns over whether it will increase the risk of confrontation and conflict in the disputed waters.

The Law

On January 22, the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress passed a new law empowering the CCG to employ “all necessary means” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels and specifying the circumstances under which different weapons, “handheld, shipborne, or airborne,” can be deployed, as well as allowing it to demolish structures built by other claimants in areas China considers its own. This new law is another manifestation of the CCG’s expanding role. The roles and practices of the CCG have generally been in line with those of other coast guards around the world. This specific law, however, lays out the powers and duties of the CCG in so called “jurisdictional waters,” which include the highly contested areas in the South China Sea. For now, the law amounts to a figurative shot across the bows of other claimants—but that shot could soon be literal.

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