When fishing or coast guard vessels from other countries run into China’s coast guard now, they don’t expect it to be “heavily armed,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea think tank in Taipei. They would see the fleet differently under central military command, he said.

“Other countries may have a different view of what the China coast guard represents, and that could definitely make people nervous in those unanticipated encounters, and maybe other countries will see this development as something they need to respond to in terms of restructuring their own coast guards,” Spangler said.