mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
China Launches Revamped "Iron Fist" Coast Guard


Just as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed a resounding victory in parliamentary elections last week, China sent a token of congratulations: a reorganized coast guard officials call China’s “iron fist,” surveillance ships and aircraft that will continue to pester Japan’s more powerful navy in the East China Sea.

The reorganization, announced months ago, was completed last week and will see four different branches of China’s maritime law enforcement—including fishing police, maritime patrol vessels, and surveillance craft—come under one central authority, the National Oceanic Administration. Jane Perlez reports that the message sent by this “iron fist” is clear: “China planned to use the new unified paramilitary vessels to keep pressure on Japan over the sovereignty of the tiny islands.”

China’s naval forces are weaker than Japan’s, not to mention America’s. But this reorganization and a five-year program to build 30 new cutters for China’s coast guard are “well under way” to making Beijing’s navy and coast guard stronger in comparison to its regional rivals.

In some ways, analysts say, there’s nothing to worry about. There are “legitimate safety, environmental and management reasons for these enhanced capabilities,” a professor at the US Naval War College told the Times. And a top Japanese diplomat is visiting China this week for meetings aimed at reducing tension between the two countries.

But China’s naval growth is part of a trend across the region: Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, the US, even Russia—all are in the midst of building up their navies in the East and South China Seas. US allies in the region—South Korea, the Philippines, and Japan—are all embroiled in territorial disputes with an aggressive China that show no signs of being settled soon. One little mistake could send American forces into action to defend Japan—even its tiny outlying islands, which American officials recently confirmed were covered by the two countries’ defense treaty.

[Image: The Chinese guided missile destroyer Shenzhen near Guam, courtesy Wikimedia]

Features Icon
show comments
  • bigfire

    One of the joke about 5 years plan is that it’s always 5 years away. Just like Nuclear Fusion power is at least 10 years away for the last 60 years.

  • cubanbob

    The Chinese are about to accomplish the impossible. They are going to force a group of countries that hate Japan like poison and get them to voluntarily join this centuries version of The Co-Prosperity Sphere. I suspect the Chinese will rue the day.

    • Tim Godfrey

      The ‘Co-Prosperity Sphere’ played out differently in different countries. Countries like Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore experienced the constructive side of Japanese Imperialism and don’t hold the same resentments towards the Japanese that the Chinese and Koreans hold.

      The same could be said of China until the 1990s when the current government decided that promoting anti-Japanese sentiment in China was a good way distract its population after the 1989 protests.

      • cubanbob

        Of the three countries you mentioned only the Taiwanese don’t hold bitter feelings. Still after nearly seventy years the young people today don’t have the animosity of their grandparents.

        • Tim Godfrey

          I think you are arguing semantics. Individuals that suffered personal losses as a result of the war will obviously hold resentments. What is missing in all of the countries I mentioned is a collective sense of resentment.

          Even in China where some of the worst abuses occurred the collective resentment we see today is a largely a creation of the communist party that wanted to distract its people after the protests of 1989.

          Countries don’t hold grudges 70+ years after the fact unless there is a political benefit to doing so. China and Korea benefit politically by holding grudges so it is reasonable to assume it will continue.

          • cubanbob

            History is still history. National ambitions don’t change that easily over time. While those Asian countries don’t have a great affection for the Japanese that is tempered with their fear of the Chinese. The US Navy will be greatly missed in the region.

          • Tim Godfrey

            History is not history.

            History is nothing but a narrative which is manipulated over time to support political objectives.

            Sometimes this manipulation is deliberate. Sometimes it is spontaneous (crowd sourced history). But it is always manipulated.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The first thing to do when we go to war with China is to discharge our 1 Trillion Dollar + debt. With this in mind we should actively be seeking to put together a China Sea Alliance that will force us into war with China when any of our allies throws down with China. A war with China would instantly pay for itself with retired debt, making the US economically stronger, as well as with improved trade and political clout with the nations China is threatening.
    War with China is a Win – Win for the US.
    Also, the corrupt Chinese military is a joke, whose equipment and training is mostly soviet in ancestry (crap), while the US has the finest equipment and training money can buy, and over 10 years of recent combat experience which has created a hardened Veteran force the world hasn’t seen in centuries.

    • bpuharic

      By all means let’s go to war for the banks. Let’s trade dollars for bodies

      Who could POSSIBLY disagree. I mean, look how poorly the Chinese did during the Korean war.

    • cubanbob

      The concept you are alluding to is called odious debt. It was pioneered by Cuba when Cuba renounced its debt to Spain after the War of Independence.

      However the Chinese are many things but dumb enough to start a war with the US especially when it could lead to an economic disaster for them which would topple the Communist Party isn’t one of them.

      • Jacksonian_Libertarian

        This is leverage that we should use to create an alliance, gain trade concessions all around, sell our weapon systems, intimidate China, and all while looking like the proverbial White Knight come to save the day. Where’s the down side? If we go to war, or if we don’t go to war, we win either way.

  • Bill Huang

    The PLAN is weaker only when it comes to the quantity of modern surface vessels. That is rarely the dominant factor which shifts the strength equilibrium.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service