Current Situation in the Building and Development of China's Border and Coastal Defense
InputTime:2021.10.12 | ShareTo:

          

 

 

ABOUT AUTHOR

 


OUYANG Wei

Deputy Director of Academic Committee, Director of Border Studies Center, Grandview Institution

 

Born in April 1958, Beijing by birth, Changsha, Hunan by ancestry. He is a professor (retired) of National Defense University. He is the author of "Theory of Strategic Deployment" and cheif editor of "Introduction to National Defense Mobilization". He has published articles and research reports on military strategy, great power relations, regional security and cultural studies.


 

 

  


The stability of a country’s border and coastal defense is directly related to its sovereignty, territorial integrity, maritime rights and security, as well as its economic development, social stability and unity of ethnic groups. As the security situation changes both home and abroad, China’s border and coastal areas have gained greater strategic prominence, becoming the intersections of internal and external conflicts and interests, frontiers for expanding national strategic interests to the periphery, and sensitive zones for maintaining regional and domestic stability.

Since entering the 21st century, China’s comprehensive national strength has steadily increased. So has its influence on the border and coastal regions, neighboring countries and even the world. On the whole, the good-neighborly and friendly relations with the neighboring states have been developed, and the political, economic and security relations generally strengthened. Thanks to years of efforts, notable achievements have been made in border and coastal defense. With the management capabilities constantly enhanced, the stability in these areas has been maintained. The capacity to safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests has been further enhanced. Meanwhile, the new circumstances present not only historical opportunities but also enormous challenges to the building and development of China's border and coastal defense.

 


 

 

1. China's border and coastal defense areas are increasingly becoming the frontiers of strategic competition.

In the new era, the comprehensive national powers of countries around the world tend to be more balanced and their security policies are in constant readjustment, which indicates that the global strategic configuration has entered a historical period of restructuring.

Aggressively promoting its “Indo-Pacific” strategy, the United States has deployed additional military forces in China’s peripheral regions. It persists in its arms sales to Taiwan and squeezes China’s policy space by constantly challenging China’s bottom line toward Taiwan. In the disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the East and South China Seas, the United States sides with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam with which China has territorial disputes. It bears upon China by incessantly voicing support for the ruling of the South China Sea arbitration case and urging its allies and “partners” to conduct “Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) ” in the disputed waters.

The Japanese government is getting hardened on the Diaoyu Islands issue, overtly regarding China as a strategic rival in East Asia. Leaning on the Japan-US military alliance and taking advantage of the Diaoyu Islands crisis, Japan is moving faster in its way to building a political and military power. Its defense department has been pushing forward its military deployment and combat readiness in response to the Diaoyu Islands dispute. As a result, there is a regular confrontation with China in the waters.

India takes China as a strategic contestant and adopts an approach of “defending the north and advancing eastward”. It has deployed forces of comparative advantage against China in the disputed land border areas, intensifying its encroachment on China's territory. At the same time, it has increased its budget in naval forces and implemented the “Act East Policy” to push into the Pacific Ocean. Joining the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” system, India vigorously interacts with the United States, Japan and Australia. It keeps monitoring and preventing China from expansion into the Indian Ocean.

Countries like the Philippines and Vietnam that have unresolved disputes with China over maritime rights and interests are trying to leverage the endorsement of major countries from outside the region so as to counterbalance China’s increasing control over the South China Sea and to grab their own vested interests. Apart from that, the instability and uncertainty in the Korean Peninsula, Myanmar, Afghanistan and other regions has direct impact on China's border and coastal defense. And the possibility of intervention by the major powers from outside the region is on the increase.

On the whole, becoming more pronounced are such problems as strategic readjustment of major and super powers, disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, the volatility of hotspots in the surrounding areas, and the security issues arising in the process of advancing China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In the neighboring areas intensive military forces are deployed as different countries have overlapping interests as well as conflicts there. The border areas and surrounding waters have become a theater where the major powers play longitudinal games and the national interests collide with each other. Thus, the strategic security situation is rather complicated. Meanwhile, China has frequent exchanges with the neighboring countries and there is an increasing demand for the economy to go global. Consequently, the border and coastal regions have become places where the external challenges and the internal development needs come to meet. Hedges have already formed in some of these areas. As a result, the strategic position of China’s border and coastal defense is made more prominent and weightier on its national security and development. They have virtually become critical zones and strategic frontiers for China to deal with the comprehensive security threats, shape the surrounding environment, coordinate the relationship between big powers, test the national wills and showcase its strength.


 

 

2. The possibility of military frictions in the related border and coastal areas is on the rise.

The current situation – the rise of emerging countries, shifting in the world strategic landscape and various interests closely intertwined among different countries – has forced the United States to alter the way it maintains global hegemony. As China’s national defense and armed forces get modernized and important changes have taken place in the balance of military forces in the world, it is difficult for military powers in history to carry out military strikes against China by means of armed invasion. It is even more difficult for neighboring military powers in the traditional sense to initiate large-scale and high-intensity local wars against China. In addition, against the background of good neighborliness and mutual benefit that China has been upholding, most of our neighboring countries have demarcated their borders and established close political, economic and security relations with China. And most land borders and coastal areas are no longer in a state of hostility and military confrontation. So, the possibility of direct invasion against China by the neighboring countries or outside powers is faint.

That said, the odds of armed conflicts cannot be ruled out under certain conditions due to the strategic game between major powers and disputes over national sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. Besides, in the context of economic globalization and social informatization, a variety of non-traditional security threats keep emerging, posing new and constant challenges to peace and stability in our border and coastal defense areas.

First of all, the struggles to safeguard China’s national unity and territorial integrity and the fight against secession and terrorism in border and coastal areas tend to be protracted. Particularly, the situation across the Taiwan Straits has gone into a new phase of instability. Anti-encroachment, anti-separatism and anti-terrorism remain tough tasks in some border areas.

Secondly, the internal political, economic and military volatility in some neighboring countries is liable to affect the stability of our border areas and maritime security. The “nuclear issue” on the Korean Peninsula and the military confrontation between the North and South Korea, for instance, the intensifying conflicts between the ruling authorities and the opposition and ethnic armed groups in Myanmar, and the uncertainties to both Afghanistan itself and the world after the Taliban's recapture of power, have all added to the turbulence elements in China’s border and coastal regions.

Thirdly, drug trafficking and illegal border crossings are not only affecting the social order, people’s lives and property in the border areas, but becoming a normality endangering the stability and the national security as well.

Fourthly, issues like resource disputes and environmental pollution in border areas have a negative effect on China's relations with the neighboring countries. Mass incidents resulted from civil or economic spats might lead to bilateral or multilateral clashes in border areas.

Fifthly, natural disasters and accidents frequently happen, and floods, droughts, forest and grassland fires, snowstorms, windstorms and shipwrecks occasionally occur in border and coastal areas, which poses threats to the people’s lives and property as well as the social stability there.


 

 

3. While land border defense is stabilizing and controllable on the whole, coastal defense is not, with the uncertain elements increasing.

Since the 1960s, China has gradually reinforced its border and coastal defense, adjusted and improved relevant policies in a targeted manner. By signing border treaties with neighboring countries and resolving issues left over from history, land border security has been ensured and overall stability achieved.

When it comes to the northeast, north and northwest land border, China has signed treaties respectively with North Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Successively it has solved the demarcation problem with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia. Thereby, the possibility of disputes arising from unclear territorial borders in the “three norths” directions has reduced to the minimum. Driven by the need for stable borders, China, together with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, has founded the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Iran, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan have been admitted as observer states successively. Through SCO platform, China has developed security cooperation with other countries in the region, made much progress in the construction of multilateral security mechanism, and optimized the external security environment of the northwest border.

China has also signed boundary treaties with Myanmar, Nepal, Laos and Vietnam (except India and Bhutan) successively and established the ASEAN Free Trade Area, which has stabilized the security in the southwest border area as a whole. Keeping a negotiation mechanism and announcing the political guidelines for the settlement of the boundary issue, China has inked the border defense cooperation agreement with India in 2013 in an effort to reduce border friction. However, out of its strategic coveting in the Indo-Pacific region and encouraged by the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, India has readjusted its strategy towards China in recent years, taking a hardline anti-China stance on the Belt and Road Initiative and territorial disputes. It has built up military deployment in border areas and encroached on China's territory. The 2017 Doklam Standoff in the Sikkim sector of the China-India border, the 2019 Ladakh clash, and the 2020 border conflict in the Galwan river valley that resulted in casualties, show that the task of defending and managing the Sino-Indian land border is far more demanding than in other directions. As strategically both China and India have clear intention to avoid military conflict, and besides, the reorganization of China’s military forces acts as a counterweight to India's deployment of border forces, the Sino-Indian border disputes are held under control for the time being. It is very unlikely that local clash and war harming the overall stability of the border areas and bilateral relations should occur.    

The coastal security situation reveals that the challenges are being more pronounced to China's territorial waters in the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea as well as in the Pacific Ocean east of Taiwan, including China’s territorial seas, contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones and continental shelf areas that are adjacent to the Chinese mainland and fall into the jurisdiction of China’s coastal defense.

To begin with, after decades of development, China has become a major regional power of important influence with “both land and sea capabilities”. Both the need for survival and development and the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative have put forward new demands for marine access and resource security. In this regard, the ocean has become an important boost for maintaining China’s economic and social development; therefore, it is one of our strategic goals to build China into a maritime power. China’s strategic interests have gone beyond its maritime borders.

Second, China has disputes with some countries over the sovereignty of a couple of islands and with almost all of its maritime neighbors over undefined maritime boundaries. It has maritime delimitation disputes with a few countries, too and the contested area accounts for about half of its maritime territory. The relevant neighboring countries have been engaged in production and exploration in the disputed waters for a long time. Some of them have actively brought in forces from outside the region with the intention of internationalizing maritime disputes, making it more challenging for China’s coastal defense to fulfill its role.

As for maritime delimitation, after the United Nations “Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)” comes into force, China, one of the countries with the most complicated delimitation and the most onerous task to complete that in the world, has to delimit maritime boundaries with eight of its neighbors, covering a disputed water of more than 1.5 million square kilometers. This adds up to the biggest uncertainty for China’s maritime security and stability. In terms of the ownership of the Diaoyu Islands, the dispute between China and Japan was escalated by the Japanese government’s “purchase” of the Diaoyu Islands in 2012. Now the Islands has turned into the focus of rows over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights between the two countries. Japan’s relevant policies and the increased influence of anti-China forces inside the country have further heightened the tension, so that the maritime law enforcement departments and military forces of the two countries are in confrontation with each other in waters off the Diaoyu Islands, which inflicts a direct negative impact on the overall Sino-Japan relations.

In the Xisha (Paracel) and Nansha (Spratly) waters, China’s disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei over the sovereignty and ownership of some islands and reefs in the South China Sea, coupled with the influence of the U.S. military alliance with the Philippines, may induce a military crisis at sea under certain conditions. In recent decades, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei have stepped up oil and gas exploitation in the South China Sea, and more than a hundred foreign oil and gas fields have been counted within the “nine-dash line”, over which China has historical rights.

In respect of fishery resources, with the maritime boundaries undefined and disputes over sovereignty over some islands and reefs unsettled, clashes between China and its maritime neighbors such as the ROK, DPRK, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines have occurred from time to time, some of which have led to diplomatic spats. The discovery and exploitation of natural gas hydrates, cobalt-rich crusts, hydrothermal sulfides and genes of deep-sea organisms may also cause friction with relevant countries.

Third, warships and planes from the US, Japan, Australia, India, the UK, and France have entered the South China Sea in a large scale under the pretext of “freedom of navigation” and repeatedly conducted provocations by incursion into the Taiwan Strait. They have mounted up reconnaissance and survey in China's surrounding waters. Japan's East China Sea air defense identification zone overlaps with China's, which leads to fierce maritime and air contests, open or hidden, legal or illegal.


 

 

4. The “hotspots” in the neighborhood are exerting greater impact on China's border and coastal defense.

China’s border and coastal defense areas are straight adjacent to the neighboring countries, some of which have become regional and world hotspots due to internal or diplomatic or historical reasons, which directly impacts China's border and coastal defense.

The first is China’s northeast land and maritime border that is greatly overshadowed by the Korean Peninsula issues. No matter the nuclear issue (nuclear security and safety), the military confrontation between North and South Korea, or the internal stability of the DPRK, all exert immediate security pressure on the border areas of China.

a.      North Korea is already a nuclear-weapon holder. The U.S. and South Korea agree in their operational plan to a pre-emptive strike on North Korea’s nuclear facilities should any sign of the use of nuclear weapons be detected. Most of DPRK’s nuclear facilities are positioned in the mountainous regions near China-DPRK border; the rest of them are mostly set within 200 kilometers to the border. Moreover, most of its nuclear test sites are located in close proximity to the border, too. In the event of an accident or military attack on these facilities, nuclear leakage and loss of control are bound to take place.

b.     The Korean Peninsula remains in a military standoff. In spite of the fact that the warring sides have signed an armistice, there is no peace mechanism at work. The Cheonan and Yeonpyeong incidents in 2010, as well as repeated tensions in military confrontations between the North Korea and the U.S. and South Korea, show that military conflicts on land and at sea remain possible between the North and South Korea.

c.      The DPRK is now haunted with economic problems, such as the material shortage worsened by the international sanctions and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, which poses uncertainties for its domestic stability. The boundary demarcation between China and the DPRK will continue to influence both sides to a certain degree. According to the China-DPRK boundary demarcated in the 1950s, the main waterway of the Yalu River boundary is on the DPRK side and most of the islands are assigned to the DPRK. To date, the dividing lines of some islands have turned blurred as the two sides have built a number of hydropower facilities on the boundary river. As a result, most of the islands that are assigned to the DPRK become attached to the bank on the Chinese side without water in between, bringing about difficulties in border management.

The second is the stability in China’s southwest and west land border areas which is under considerable influence by the internal situation in Myanmar and Afghanistan. Myanmar’s political status and the change in its China policy are potential factors bearing upon the stability of the border areas. Recent years has seen that the Myanmar government began to mend its relations with western countries, aiming to get rid of the all-round sanctions by them, shake off the excessive reliance on China, improve the international environment, reduce domestic pressure and consolidate its ruling. On February 1, 2021, a coup took place. The military junta detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other Myanmar national leaders, triggering nationwide protests. The political forces dominated by the NLD set up a “Myanmar National Unity Government” which called for a “war of resistance” against the junta on September 7. As a result, sharp confrontation and violence between Myanmar military clique and ethnic armed forces and rebel forces of Myanmar nationality erupted from time to time.

Changes in Myanmar’s political, economic and security situation have a direct impact on the security in China-Myanmar border areas as well as China’s interests in Myanmar. Some major projects and enterprises invested by China have been suspended. It is still difficult for the completed oil and gas pipelines to steadily transport oil and gas to China due to this domestic instability. After the “Kokang incident”, the Myanmar military has adopted a policy of “desinification”. It imposes the Burmese language in border areas, restricts border trade and strengthens its military and police control to limit border trade between China and ethnic minority areas in northern Burma, resulting in economic depression, drug rebound and frequent smuggling in the border areas. At one time, the Myanmar army sent troops into ethnic minority areas in the name of protecting Chinese projects, but actually squeezed the space of ethnic minority-controlled areas, which has aroused violent protests of the ethnic groups.

The conflict between the Myanmar army and the armed minorities in northern Myanmar constitutes a realistic challenge to the stability of the China’s border areas. In recent years, the Burmese army has doubled its efforts to squeeze and crack down on the “local ethnic armed groups” in northern Myanmar, leading to several armed skirmishes with ethnic minority forces. An immediate result is the influx of stray soldiers and refugees into China, which has given rise to many problems such as the Burmese army shooting at target inside China, crossing the border to bury mines on China side and providing support to the besieged soldiers by way of China. Worse still, the deteriorating of COVID-19 pandemic and repeated armed conflicts in Myanmar have increased the burden and security concerns to the local governments and the local people who have to deal with problems like resettlement of border refugees and residents, organized crimes, the spread of infectious diseases, and so forth. After the coup, its domestic situation tends to be turbulent. The conflicts between the Myanmar army and ethnic minority armed groups appear to be escalating and spreading. The internal conflicts are likely to become glued and prolonged. With the control ability of the Myanmar army getting weakened, there is a growing tendency that the ethnic minority states (special zones) will gain a higher degree of autonomy (for instance, Rakhine State).

Since the U.S. and other countries withdrew all their forces from Afghanistan by the end of August, 2021, the Taliban has regained power. Although the new regime leaders declared that “the Afghan territory will not be used to harm security of any other country”, the extremist religious forces still remain. The “East Turkistan” terrorist organization, which is most dangerous to China’s security, has not been completely erased. Its political, economic and security situation is still in a state of post-war instability. Although the country’s new leadership claims that “the future Afghan governance and other affairs will be dictated by Shariah law and the relevant procedures be implemented within the framework of Islam,” it still remains unknown how this principle will be put into practice, how its foreign policy be subsequently altered and whether there will be spillover.

The third is the stability of maritime territory in the East China Sea, South China Sea, Taiwan Strait and Yellow Sea is greatly impacted by the policy readjustment of relevant countries, the situation development inside and outside Taiwan and the intervention of major powers from outside the region.

In the East China Sea, Japan is increasingly seeking sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and the resources there. With the rightward trend prevailing in Japan, its pace of attempting to revise its constitution, strengthen its armament and enhance its capability to use troops overseas has been accelerated. Apparently, there is a rising likelihood of military conflicts between the law enforcement forces of the two countries in the region.

In the South China Sea, the neighboring countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia continue to tighten their control over occupied islands and reefs and disputed waters, and promote the internationalization of the South China Sea issue.

For one thing, they take intense offensive by means of public discourse, and mount challenge to China from jurisprudence on the South China Sea issue. After the “South China Sea Arbitration” ruling in 2016, these countries frequently dispatched officials to the Nansha (Spratly) Islands for inspection and consolation, in order to create a legal basis for the exercise of “sovereignty”. They are keen on promoting the passage of the “Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf”. They actively push the civilianization of the Nansha Islands and openly deny the historical and legal basis of the “nine-dash line”. They fasten their steps to formulate and introduce the “Basic Law of the Sea” so as to get legal support for the consolidation and expansion of their vested interests. Endeavoring to build a consensus that issues on the South China Sea should be collectively consulted first within the ASEAN before confronting China, these countries are bidding to bundle up all ASEAN forces to bear upon China, thereby to frustrate China’s efforts to resolve the South China Sea issues through bilateral negotiations.

For another, they keep on expanding facilities on occupied islands and reefs and strengthen control over key maritime areas. Neighbors like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia have sped up the construction and expansion of new lighthouses, buoys, hydro-meteorological stations, airports, docks and other berthing and defense installations on the encroached islands and reefs. Dispatching ships and aircraft for patrols and vigilance and keeping surveillances on the key sea areas, they block and drive away Chinese vessels for scientific research, marine exploration and fishing operations, in an attempt to maintain “effective control” of the acquired areas in the South China Sea.

For the third, they have accelerated their pace of exploration and development, and plundered oil and gas resources in the South China Sea. Vietnam has conducted multi-regional and large-scale oil and gas exploration in the Beibu Gulf, and waters west of Xisha and southwest of Nansha. The Philippines has gone to the sea off Reed Tablemount (Lile Beach) to carry out seismic investigations. Its oil and gas exploration has pushed into the hinterland of the South China Sea. Malaysia’s oil and gas drilling in the southern waters of the Nansha Islands has penetrated 120 nautical miles north of the Zengmu Sandy Beach.

With respect to Taiwan, the Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration and “Taiwan independence” forces have been constantly provoking hostility across the Taiwan Straits in recent years. Series of “Taiwan independence” initiatives have prompted countermeasures from the mainland, which have seriously affected the relations and peace and stability across the Straits. The U.S. has repeatedly challenged the bottom line of the mainland's policy toward Taiwan by sending senior diplomats to visit Taiwan and landing military planes in the island. Increasing the quantity and quality of arms sales to Taiwan, it seeks to push up the level of cross-Straits military confrontation and counterbalance the mainland’s pressure on “Taiwan independence” forces. Therefore, the situation in the Taiwan Strait does not rule out tension and volatility in the future, which will adversely affect the control and security of the relevant waters between the mainland and Taiwan Island.

As regards the Yellow Sea, China and the DPRK have not demarcated the territorial sea boundary from the mouth of the Yalu River to the north of the Yellow Sea except for a drawn military cordon. In the southern waters of the Yellow Sea, China doesn’t have clear delimitation with South Korea, and the lines claimed by both sides are partly crossed. Frictions between the two Koreas and China happened from time to time due to the inconsistency in each side’s claim of demarcation, or undefined maritime boundaries, or other reasons. Furthermore, no matter in which seas or which countries (especially those with which China has military alliances), so long as there is disagreement over maritime territorial sovereignty or interests with China, it is highly likely that countries from outside the region may come to intervene or use the concerned party to prevent China from legitimately acquiring maritime rights and interests. In the East China Sea, the United States explicitly backs up Japan’s “de facto control” of the Diaoyu Islands. In the US-Japan Joint Statement issued on March 16, 2021, the United States reiterated its defense obligation to Japan (including Diaoyu Islands) in line with the US-Japan Security Treaty. In the South China Sea, the U.S., Japan, India and Australia are liaising with other outsider countries like Britain and France to deepen their regional penetration and push the internationalization of the South China Sea issue.

Since the unstable and uncertain elements are increasing in China’s seas, situation of its coastal defense is turning more complicated. With the development of our economy and progress of the society, China is more reliant on international trade, energy resources and strategic routes of communication. As the domain of coastal defense is enlarging, security threats and strategic pressure are growing accordingly.


 

 

5. The building and development of China's border and coastal defense has moved into an era of restructuring and transformation.

Following the times, the nature and mode of China's border and maritime defense have been changing along with the changes of socio-political, economic and military factors, and the updating of strategic doctrines. The border defense in ancient China was characterized by “the defense of Yi and Xia”, i.e., a border defense pattern based on “internal defense”. This mode regarded the inland and the central area of the capital as the focus of prevention, and took the consolidation of its own ruling position as the core of defense, with the emphasis on the inland rather than the border. As far as the frontier areas were concerned, efforts were made to strengthen and consolidate the rule and management over the minorities there, with little concept of national borders. When threatened by nomads, colonialism and powerful countries, the rulers began to consider changing the focus of border defense from frontier governance to setting up defensive lines on land borders and coastal areas so as to prepare for and defend against foreign intimidations and invasions. After the Opium War, China began to take on the modern concept of statehood and territorial sovereignty, and the nature of border defense gradually turned to “the defense against the outsiders”.

After the founding of the PRC, a state-predominated border and coastal defense system was gradually established. From 1949 to the late 1950s, a border and coastal defense mode was set up to respond to military conflicts. Later, the leading agencies were founded, border public security forces established, and policies and regulations formulated. During the Cold War period, China's border and sea areas became the outposts for military defense. The border and coastal defense forces prioritized the land border and coastal defense as their main tasks, and played a remarkable role in border armed conflicts such as those between China and India, China and the Soviet Union. A border and coastal defense model has been gradually set up featuring joint military-police-civilian efforts in defense and administration, with military defense as the focus.

After the reform and opening up from the late 1970s, the border and the coastal areas were shifted from military defense outposts into the frontiers and windows open to the outside world. New problems in new situation kept popping up all the time, which gave the border and coastal defense a hard time to keep everything under control. During this period, the border and coastal defense system had undergone major restructuring. A commanding mechanism was established with the State Council and the Central Military Commission (CMC) as its unified leadership, and responsibilities divided between the military and local authorities. Its function switched from the focus of military defense to a combination of defense and control. At the same time, it was assigned a new function and focus: to serve the needs of the opening up to the outside world, the development of foreign trade, and the accelerating of the economic and social advancement in the border areas. With the signing of border treaties between China and its neighbors, the political, economic and security relations had improved significantly, and the threat of direct military invasion by foreign enemies had been significantly reduced. Nevertheless, various non-traditional security issues that emerge in times of relative peace are posing new challenges to the stability of the border and coastal areas, rendering the border and maritime defense to be an important realm of homeland security. Since entering the 21st century, China’s comprehensive national power is rising. Its overseas interests continue to increase, which has put forward new requirements to the strategic function of the border and coastal defense. In the new era, the leadership and management system and the layout of China’s border and coastal defense forces have gone through readjustments and developments, moving toward the direction of coordinating land and coastal development and centralized leadership.


 

 

6. China will unremittingly promote the building and development of its border and coastal defense.

In its future construction and development, China’s border and coastal defense has to take on the historical responsibility of ensuring the security, prosperity and stability of the country's land and maritime border for a long period. Currently, the situation in border and maritime defense is more demanding than ever before and the requirements more specialized. We need to plan in a practical and integrated manner from the height of national strategic planning and governance capacity, bearing in mind the concept of the overall national security, taking into account our national and military conditions and aligning with the country’s security and military strategies.

First, we must precisely grasp the orientation of the construction and development of border and coastal defense, making sure that its main functions encompass maintaining border security and safeguarding the legitimated rights and interests, keeping order in the border areas and jurisdictional waters, promoting the improvement of the security environment inside and outside the defense areas, and coordinating with the state armed forces to carry out operations in the border areas and jurisdictional waters.

Second, we must make it clear that the strategic objectives of the country’s border and coastal defense construction should include: a) through relentless efforts, to make its leadership and management system more reasonable and efficient, its forces more lean and competent, its legal system more effective and sound; b) to significantly upgrade the quality of the constructed defense facilities; c) to constantly improve the personnel and theory construction; d) to remarkably enhance its ability to respond to emergencies.

Third, we must work to further adjust and reform the leadership and management system of the border and coastal defense, ensuring that decisions made in its construction and development are eventually in alignment to those made in the construction of the national security, defense and army. We must establish a functional government department that can exercise unified leadership over the construction and development of border and coastal defense and effectively perform its functions, and that holds responsible to the leading organs of national security. We need to give full play to the guiding and coordinating role of the State Commission of Border and Coastal Defense and dutifully implement the decisions on national security and border and coastal defense.

Fourth, step by step we must build and deploy a new type of forces for border and maritime defense – the unified armed police forces, rationalize institutional settings and functional division to achieve an organic integration of unified law enforcement with professional management. We must also work at the training of border and maritime defense personnel and do more theoretical research.

Fifth, we must see to it that the law enforcement system is smoothly connected with the joint warfare system. Working around the operational requirements, we should formulate a perfect synergistic plan for the border and coastal defense leaderships and the joint combat command organs to respond to military conflicts at the border. We must organize joint training and exercises between law enforcement forces and combat forces according to the cooperative synergistic plans and training schedules. We must reasonably adjust the deployment of armed forces in border areas according to the level of threats to different strategic directions and the stability there, so as to strengthen our capability to project power to certain border and coastal areas. 

Sixth, we should enrich and perfect the laws, regulations and policy system of the border and maritime defense. Pivoting on the requirements of maintaining the security and stability of China’s border areas and defending its maritime rights and interests, we should promote the institution of comprehensive laws on border and coastal defense and speed up the legislative process of essential laws, for instance, the National Boundary Law. At the same time, we must sort out the special laws and regulations and produce a system of laws and policies on border and maritime defense with authority and liability clearly divided but interconnected, so as to lay a legal foundation for effective management and defense of land boundaries and border areas, territorial and jurisdictional waters. We will improve, integrate and revise the original departmental and local regulations related to border and coastal defense, so as to provide the border and coastal defense forces a clear basis for law enforcement in accordance with the new compilation and tasks. We also need to consolidate our law enforcement, supervision and inspection, and promote a governance by law. We must pay due attention to the international and expansive nature of the laws and regulations on the border and coastal defense, and pay due respect to the relevant agreements and accords signed with neighboring countries. We must be well informed of the latest development of the border laws and maritime laws of related countries, as well as the trend of relevant international laws and regulations, well-equipped with the legal weapons to defend the legitimate rights and interests of the state and people in the border and coastal areas under our jurisdiction. We should also work to pin up in legal form the established space in our national border and maritime areas, and to defend our resource interests and strategic interests.

Seventh, we must perfect the construction of the supporting infrastructure, facilities and upgrade the installations for the border and maritime defense. To cater to the defense and control needs and prioritize the key projects, we should increase the input, work in a step-by-step manner, take a holistic approach and integrate the military and civilian sectors. We must work to transform the border and coastal defense infrastructure into one that is information-intensive, well-organized, and of high-quality and efficiency. In line with the overall requirements for China's economic and social development and the building of national defense and the armed forces, we must increase the expenditures on border and coastal defense infrastructure, which includes such majors aspects as a) an informationized commanding and controlling system, b) modern protection facilities, c) modern base systems, d) meteorological, hydrological, surveying and mapping support installations for land and maritime areas in major directions, e) air defense identification and subsurface alert devices for major directions and key areas, and f) defense weapons and equipment.

Eighth, we must attach great importance to shaping a favorable strategic environment for the building of China’s border and coastal defense. We should not only coordinate it with the development of the social and economic development, but with that of the national defense and the armed forces as well. We must strengthen the relationships between border and coastal defense departments and governments at all levels and military units of all services so as to make joint efforts to build China’s border and sea defense. We should at the same time double our efforts to educate people from all sectors of society and influence the public opinion, so as to shape a favorable internal environment for the building of our border and coastal defense. Upholding the concept of interconnection and win-win cooperation, we should strengthen collaboration with foreign countries in land border defense and maritime security, on the premise of effectively safeguarding our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests while augmenting our common interests. We should establish a new type of ties with other countries, so as to jointly maintain land border and maritime security. Furthermore, we must strengthen China’s discourse power and extend its influence on international affairs. In compliance with international laws and relevant national laws and in adherence to the principle of being rational, favorable and restrained, we must strictly enforce the law while effectively safeguarding our rights, and explore new models for managing foreign affairs related to border and coastal defense. Under the guidance of national diplomacy and the new security concept of “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation”, we will take into consideration of both domestic and international situations, properly handle disputes with our neighbors over land borders and maritime rights and interests, and seek and expand the convergence of common interests. We will establish and improve mechanisms for border and maritime security cooperation with neighboring countries, so as to jointly maintain stability and order, consolidate and develop good-neighborly and friendly relations with them, and promptly address emergencies to prevent conflicts from getting escalated. Finally, we need to establish a mechanism for security cooperation in relevant areas across the Taiwan Strait to create conditions for achieving the national reunification and building China into a maritime power, and more importantly, break up the besiege by the island chains and change China’s strategic posture in major disputed seas. (End)

 

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Current Situation in the Building and Development of China's Border and Coastal Defense.pdf