There are many issues that arise from the existence of such a militia, some of which Dr. Ericson discusses during our show:
Other issues are discussed in James Kraska's and Michael Monti's The Law of Naval Warfare and China's Maritime Militia (pdf):
The militia is positioned to conduct a “people’s war at sea” in any future conflict. This strategy exploits a seam in the law of naval warfare,Yes, it's legal brief of sorts, but with the Chinese engaging in some serious lawfare, it is a must read to understand the issues confronting our forces.
which protects coastal fishing vessels from capture or attack unless they are integrated into the enemy’s naval force. The maritime militia forms an irregular naval force that provides the PLAN with an inexpensive force multiplier,raising operational, legal and political challenges for any opponent.
The sheer size and scope of the vast network of China’s maritime militia complicates the battlespace, degrades any opponent’s decision-making process and exposes adversaries to political dilemmas that will make them more cautious to act against China during a maritime crisis or naval war. The legal implications are no less profound. This article concludes that the maritime
militia risks erasing the longstanding distinction between warships and civilian ships in the law of naval warfare. Although the law of naval warfare permits warships to engage civilian fishing vessels that assist enemy forces, it may be virtually impossible to distinguish between legitimate fishing vessels and those that are integrated into the PLAN as an auxiliary naval force. Regardless
of whether the maritime militia plays a decisive combat role, its presence in the theater of war confronts opponents with vexing legal and operational dilemmas.