torsdag 27. juni 2019

Armed Fishing Boats: China’s Hidden Navy

The Spratly Islands, occupied by five different claimants, are the most hotly contested part of the South China Sea. Thanks to the harbors and supporting infrastructure Beijing constructed on its outposts there over the last five years, most vessels operating around the Spratlys are Chinese. And most of those are at least part-time members of China’s official maritime militia, an organization whose role Beijing frequently downplays but that is playing an increasingly visible role in its assertion of maritime claims.

A small cohort of analysts continue to cast doubt on the existence and activities of the maritime militia. The best-intentioned offer alternative explanations for the curious behaviors of the Chinese fishing fleets, though those don’t stand up to scrutiny. Other writers, especially those affiliated with Chinese institutions and state media, seek to present an alternate version of reality by artfully cropping satellite imagery, cherry-picking data, or simply ignoring the facts and attacking the motives of those presenting evidence of militia activities.