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China’s military just took over its gigantic Coast Guard from civilians

A Chinese Coast Guard Ship participating in an international exercise. (Indian Navy/Released)
March 27, 2018

China’s military took over control of the country’s Coast Guard, causing concerns over the disputed waters in the East and South China seas.

The Chinese Coast Guard will be turned over to the administration of the People’s Armed Police, which was recently put under the command of the Central Military Commission, the South China Morning Post reported last week.

The Coast Guard was previously controlled by the civilian State Oceanic Administration. The new decision allows for President Xi Jinping to have more control over the Coast Guard and its assertion of territorial claims in the region.

The decision is necessary “to fully implement the Party’s absolute leadership over the PLA and other armed forces,” the Plan of Restructuring said.

Military observer Ni Lexiong told the South China Morning Post that the move would allow for better training of personnel, as the chain of command would be simplified.

However, the move would allow for the military to have control, as opposed to civilian control, when it comes to maritime territorial disputes, adding to the tensions that already exist in the region.

“But, clearly, the confirmation of the party’s absolute control over the military and the consolidation of all armed forces is a higher priority,” Ni said. “This shows that domestic considerations prevail.”

Lyle Morris, a senior policy analyst at RAND Corp., said the decision will have consequences in the region.

“The transfer to the PAP has formalized command and control of the coast guard along military, not civilian lines,” Morris told the South China Morning Post. “The implication of the coast guard being placed under the direct chain of command of the CMC is that the coast guard will enjoy more flexibility and authority to act decisively, if it choses, in disputed waters in the East and South China Sea.”

“This may have major implications for how the coast guard may use force and its war-fighting functions with the PLA Navy,” Morris added. “Although China may never state explicitly that the coast guard has a wartime function, this reform makes clear it has such authorities if it so chooses.”