China’s Naval Militia–A Coast Guard Auxiliary and Much More

A photo published in a report on Chinese mine warfare by the U.S. Naval War College shows Chinese civilian fishing vessels practicing deploying sea mines at a naval base in Sanya in 2004. —Courtesy of U.S. government

A photo published in a report on Chinese mine warfare by the U.S. Naval War College shows Chinese civilian fishing vessels practicing deploying sea mines at a naval base in Sanya in 2004. —Courtesy of U.S. government

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story about China’s Naval Militia. It employs not only the crews of their fishing industry, but also their vessels, to support China’s Navy and Coast Guard. It certainly blurs the line between government and non-government vessels.

Presumably this organization also extends to include their ocean going vessels and their crews as well. This is all the more interesting because of China’s recent announcement that they would require the incorporation of military characteristics in newly constructed container, roll-on/roll-off, multipurpose, bulk carrier and break bulk civilian vessels.

24 thoughts on “China’s Naval Militia–A Coast Guard Auxiliary and Much More

      • They are really more of a navy auxiliary. They are expected to report the presence of foreign vessels. They participated in the harassment of an American Navy auxiliary. They are trained to lay mines.

        The Brits had an arrangement with their merchant marine where many of their officers were in a naval reserve. I think this is in some ways similar.

      • Don’t forget that US Merchant Marine officers are US naval reserve by way of merchant marine academy. But realisticly I see the USCG Auxilary in time of war doing no shooting, but doing SAR, and submarine detection.

  1. This is typical of “communist” states who make sure all and every asset can be used towards state security. Remember all those Soviet designed “dual purpose” merchant men; there was even a class of auxiliary landing ship whose “Project” number escapes me at the moment. Never mind all those trawlers which had more aerials than a small town………

    In a way this is naval warfare at its most basic. In the very early modern period most navies were comprised of merchant men and crewed by merchant sailors often under the command of soldiers. The ship has inherent utility and that utility shouldn’t be wasted. Though I think as ships have become more specialised, larger, and their “ownership” more complicated the degree to which that utility is accessible is shrinking. Look at the merchantmen that went south with the British task force in 1982 and look at their modern equivalents. Small cargo liners such as the Spanish Navy’s Contramaestre Casado are rare birds these days.

    There are some British masters who are also members of the Royal Naval Reserve. When in command of a vessel its permissible for it to wear a blue ensign.

    During the Cold War British intelligence may have used trawlers for intelligence gathering. The UK still had a very large fishing fleet out in the North Atlantic, North Sea, and Barents Sea. This may be of interest……….

  2. The original CG Auxiliary was the CG Voluntary Reserve. They indeed were often armed and provided anti-sabotage patrols in ports, terminals, and shipyards during WWII. No reason the organization couldn’t expand its roles again in time of a major war.

    • In the beginning they were armed along with the Civil Air Patrol until sufficient numbers of navy and coast guard ships became available. They never sank a sub, but they did rescue a lot of the merchantmen from the waters after they were torpedoed.

    • Talking of maritime militias I have finally found out how many “boats” the Norwegian Sea Home Guard posses or have access to, 240 boats plus 70 speed boats. The two larger vessels were transferred to the Royal Norwegian Navy some time back. Saying that I also read an article that said they were short of boats. If anybody out there can confirm the number of boats I would be grateful.

  3. A new naval militia with new ships. “They look quite different from the average Chinese fishing vessel, bearing comparatively robust hull designs with additional rub strakes (“rub-rails”) welded onto the hull’s steel plating aft of the bow. Such pronounced rub strakes are generally uncommon on Chinese fishing vessel hulls and appear to be added to mitigate damage from potential collisions. These vessels also possess mast-mounted water cannons. Both features could facilitate more aggressive close-in tactics, such as shouldering, ramming, and spraying. ”

    “Hainan Provincial Military District Commander Zhang Jian wrote in the October 2015 edition of National Defense that priorities for fishing vessels in the maritime militia will be based on larger displacement steel-hulled boats that can reach higher speeds and can sustain collisions (抗冲撞).”

  4. Pingback: China Developing Containerized Cruise Missile Launchers | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  5. A discussion of international law and the Chinese maritime militia. My feeling is that by making any of their F/Vs agents of the PLA the Chinese should no longer expect any of their F/Vs to be protected by international law. Any of them could be providing targeting data.

    When the US made its initial raid on the Japanese home islands, flying B-25s from the Hornet, they encountered a Japanese F/V and promptly sank it. I don’t think it was clear that they were an agent of the Japanese Navy, but it could have been.

    Ultimately in a war with China we would want to do whatever we could to weaken them. It would not be long before we would be targeting their fishing fleet, just to keep them from feeding the country. It is war. That is the way it works. We lay siege to a country, we don’t let them fish.

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