From the Document: "China's expansion in maritime East Asia has relied heavily on non-naval elements of sea power, above all white-hulled constabulary forces. This reflects a strategic decision. Coast guard vessels operating on the basis of routine administration and backed up by a powerful military can achieve many of China's objectives without risking an armed clash, sullying China's reputation, or provoking military intervention from outside powers. Among China's many maritime agencies, two organizations particularly fit this bill: China Marine Surveillance (CMS) and China Fisheries Law Enforcement (FLE). With fleets comprising unarmed or lightly armed cutters crewed by civilian administrators, CMS and FLE could vigorously pursue China's maritime claims while largely avoiding the costs and dangers associated with classic 'gunboat diplomacy.' This same logic argued against employing the armed elements of its maritime law enforcement forces, the China Maritime Police (CMP). Though the CMP had the authority and ability to operate throughout the three million square kilometers of China's claimed jurisdictional space, Chinese leaders elected to keep this service away from disputed and sensitive areas. Its identity as a military organization contradicted key premises of China's maritime dispute strategy. Since 2013, these assumptions have changed.[...] While organizational change has been slow, one outcome is clear: the reform has empowered the armed elements of China's constabulary forces to play an increasingly important role along China's maritime frontier. This reflects a subtle but significant shift in Chinese policy, with possible implications both for future PRC behavior and the future of the China Coast Guard as an organization."
CMSI China Maritime Report No. 2
U.S. Naval War College: http://www.usnwc.edu/