How the Chinese Communist Party uses illegal fishing vessels as its clandestine maritime militia – Japan report

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By Nicolás Promanzio

Since Xi Jinping’s rise to absolute power in the Chinese state, the Communist Party has used paramilitary forces to pressure neighboring countries that have grievances against the interests of the Communist regime.

Over the past decade and under Xi Jinping, China has fully embraced the use of its more than 70,000 illegal fishing vessels around the world as an informal maritime militia, which it uses to suck resources from other countries, systematically violate foreign borders, and pressure neighboring countries that have territorial claims against it.

At the end of 2022, the Institute of Defense Studies of Japan (IEDJ) published the 2023 edition of its annual China Security Report, highlighting the Communist Party’s attempt to gain control of the cognitive domain and disputed area situations as the ultimate challenge against Japanese sovereignty.

, How the Chinese Communist Party uses illegal fishing vessels as its clandestine maritime militia – Japan report
Chinese maritime militia (Photo internet reproduction)

In this report, an entire section explains how China has managed to deploy its coast guard and illegal fishing fleet as a paramilitary pressure force.

Since the 2013 visit to Hainan province, Xi Jinping diagrammed a plan for maritime militia units operating in the South China Sea to do so undercover under the illegal fishing fleet that the Chinese regime says it does not command but which no one in Asia Pacific doubts who controls it.

As Japan has shown, the Communist Party has granted fuel subsidies and the construction and repair of fishing vessels operating in disputed waters.

The Argentines, who are one of the main victims of the depredation of their seas by this fleet, will be well aware of this.

The number of vessels engaged in illegal fishing has more than doubled in recent years, registering more than 70,000 Chinese fishing boats equipped with the local satellite system since 2020, which indirectly answers the Communist Party.

, How the Chinese Communist Party uses illegal fishing vessels as its clandestine maritime militia – Japan report
Illegal fishing fleet (Photo internet reproduction)


Masaaki Yatsuzuka, the co-author of the IEDJ report, explained in an interview for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that China’s maritime militia is under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army.

Local militia cadres often hold positions in local governments and party organizations.

The maritime militia is not simply a group of fishermen but comprises personnel with diverse backgrounds, including fish processors, shipbuilders, port builders, medical workers, veterans, local government officials, and Communist Party members.

This Chinese maritime militia has a variety of missions, such as daily fishery production activities; maritime guerrilla operations; cooperation and support to maritime operations forces; and participation in gray zone activities at sea.

An example of the link between the paramilitary and the Communist Party is Wang Shumao, deputy commander of the maritime militia in Tanmen in Hainan province, who also serves as secretary of the Tanmen branch of the Party and was elected as a delegate to the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist grouping.

The organizations with which the maritime militia collaborate vary depending on the situation, coordinating with official government vessels to enforce Chinese maritime interests in relatively low-intensity disputed zone areas, such as communication operations in disputed areas and surveillance of foreign fishing and research vessels.

These paramilitaries are also reported to work with military organizations to conduct intelligence operations in disputed areas and lobby against foreign military vessels.

Japan has been one of the main targets of this modus operandi.

This was clear in 2016 when China’s then Defense Minister Chang Wanquan visited the Zhejiang maritime militia.

Then hundreds of Chinese fishing boats invaded the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, which Japan effectively controlled.

, How the Chinese Communist Party uses illegal fishing vessels as its clandestine maritime militia – Japan report
Headline from The Japan Times, 2016 (Photo internet reproduction)

This is done to put its waters in dispute and seek a military reaction from the assaulted country, making excuses to sanction the country defending its territorial rights.

The maritime militia seeks to carry out extreme provocations to entice the adversary’s armed forces to take military action and justify its own military retaliation, which could result in an increase in overall tensions.

As described by Masaaki Yatsuzuka, “the governments of Australia and Japan have already expressed concern over China’s dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militias in joint statements.”

With information from Derecha Diario

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