November 19, 2021

Since completing the construction of its artificial island outposts in the Spratly Islands in 2016, China has shifted its focus toward asserting control over peacetime activity across the South China Sea. A key component of this shift has been the expansion of China’s maritime militia—a force of vessels ostensibly engaged in commercial fishing but which in fact operate alongside Chinese law enforcement and military to achieve Chinese political objectives in disputed waters. The tactics employed by the militia pose a significant challenge to those interested in maintaining a maritime order rooted in international law. But open-source Chinese language research, remote sensing data, and maritime patrols conducted by actors operating in disputed waters have the power to expose the militia and diminish its effectiveness as a gray zone force. This report presents the most comprehensive profile yet available of China’s maritime militia in the South China Sea. Additionally, this report presents a methodology for identifying Chinese maritime militia vessels and a list of 122 militia vessels thus identified, as well as a list of 52 more ships highly likely to be militia.

AUTHORS Gregory B. Poling, Tabitha Grace Mallory, Harrison Prétat, The Center for Advanced Defense StudiesNovember 18, 2021

TABITHA GRACE MALLORY Affiliate Professor CWP China

Tabitha Grace Mallory is an affiliate faculty member of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and specializes in Chinese foreign and environmental policy. She is currently conducting research on China and global ocean governance and has published work on China’s fisheries and oceans policy. Dr. Mallory is CEO of the consulting firm China Ocean Institute and has consulted for organizations such as the United Nations Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, the World Bank, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). She previously served as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, and has also worked for The National Bureau of Asian Research and for the U.S. government. Dr. Mallory holds a Ph.D. (with distinction) and an M.A. in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a certificate from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and a B.A. in international studies and Mandarin Chinese from the University of Washington. She serves on the board of directors of the China Club of Seattle, and is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the Washington State China Relations Council.