On January 1, 2013, Hainan’s new maritime security regulations entered into force. Entitled Regulations for the Management of Coastal Border Security and Public Order in Hainan Province, they replaced those last issued in 1999. When the new regulations were first announced in November they attracted a great deal of attention because they appeared to authorize broad powers to interfere with freedom of navigation throughout the South China Sea. At the time, however, the full-text of the regulations had not been published, making it difficult to discern the exact impact they would have on China’s territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.
Now that the regulations have entered into force, the full-text has been released. Containing fifty-two articles divided into six sections, the new regulations are an expansion and elaboration of the 1999 version, which had forty articles. Despite the inclusion of new provisions not contained in earlier versions regarding the seizure of foreign vessels, the full-text of the 2012 regulations indicates a primary focus on the management of Chinese vessels and coastal areas. In fact, according to the Hainan government, the regulations were revised to address increased smuggling, theft and other types of illegal activities at sea. The complete text of the new regulations confirm my preliminary analysis; China is unlikely to significantly increase efforts to interfere with freedom of navigation, including expelling or seizing foreign vessels.
The bulk of the new regulations, roughly forty-two articles, address the activities of Chinese vessels from Hainan and the provinces coastal waters. Topics include the credentials and documents that Chinese vessels from Hainan must possess and the rules that they must follow in the province’s waters. For example, the regulations allow public security units to establish warning areas (jingjie quyu) and special management areas (tebie guanli quyu), and to prohibit Chinese vessels from entering these zones. The regulations also ban Chinese ships from entering the waters of foreign countries, from carrying foreign flags and from entering China’s military administrative districts (junshi guanli qu). The regulations outline ten types of prohibited actions that would disrupt public order from transporting weapons, selling drugs, smuggling and illegal entry and exit to the use of poisons and explosives, among others.