Pulling Back the Curtain on China’s Maritime Militia
Since completing the construction of its artificial island outposts in the Spratly Islands in 2016, China has shifted its focus toward asserting control over peacetime activity across the South China Sea. A key component of this shift has been the expansion of China’s maritime militia—a force of vessels ostensibly engaged in commercial fishing but which in fact operate alongside Chinese law enforcement and military to achieve political objectives in disputed waters. Over the past year, the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and the Center for Advanced Defense Studies conducted a study of China’s maritime militia using remote sensing data and open-source Chinese language research. The resulting report, Pulling Back the Curtain on China’s Maritime Militia, features the most comprehensive study to date of the structure, subsidies, and ownership networks of China’s maritime militia in the South China Sea, as well as a methodology for identifying Chinese maritime militia vessels and a list of over 120 militia vessels thus identified.
This report was made possible by funding from the Department of State’s Global Engagement Center. CSIS would like to thank the Institute of War and Peace Reporting for their assistance in administering this project.