China’s new Maritime Policy Law (MPL) purports to regulate the duties of China’s maritime police agencies, including the China Coast Guard, and safeguard China’s sovereignty, security, and rights and interest. The MPL
has potentially far-reaching application, as China claims extensive maritime areas off its mainland and in the South China Sea. This expansive application of maritime law enforcement jurisdiction is problematic given that most of China’s maritime claims are inconsistent with international law. To the extent that the MPL purports to assert jurisdiction over foreign flagged vessels in disputed areas or on the high seas, it contravenes international law. Numerous provisions of the MPL regarding the use of force are also inconsistent with international rules and standards governing the use of maritime law enforcement jurisdiction, as well as the UN Charter’s prohibition on the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. China could use the MPL as a subterfuge to advance its illegal territorial and maritime claims in the South and East China Seas and interfere with coastal State resource rights in their respective exclusive economic zone.