Summary

China’s People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) evolved out of a military predicament specific to the post-civil war period: How does a government without a formal navy protect its coastline from attack? Fast-forward to the present, and the PAFMM is still being charged with unconventional tasks. This time it’s: How does a government exert control over a contested body of water without triggering a ‘hot’ war with rival claimants?

This backgrounder explores the history, composition, and tactics of the ‘little blue men’ of China’s littoral waters – the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia.