China’s unpredictable maritime security actors

11 December 2014   |   Reports   |   By Linda Jakobson

In this Report, Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow Linda Jakobson argues that despite Chinese president Xi Jinping’s image as a strongman, China’s approach to maritime security will continue to be shaped by a diverse set of actors pushing their own agendas. Consequently, China’s behaviour will be unpredictable. These actors are taking advantage of Xi’s very broad guidelines, the present nationalistic atmosphere, and fractured authority within China’s decision-making processes to push for maritime policies that benefit them commercially and politically. 

Key Findings
China’s recent assertive actions in the maritime domain are not part of a grand strategy to coerce China’s neighbours in a tailored manner.
The restructuring of China’s maritime law enforcement agencies, announced in March 2013, led to a power struggle between the State Oceanic Administration and the Ministry of Public Security. Consequently, genuine integration of the new China Coast Guard has not yet taken place.
The People’s Liberation Army could be taking a more active role as coordinator of maritime law enforcement in China’s near seas.