Beijing needs to streamline the rival and disparate agencies managing maritime affairs as the nation exerts its ambition to be a sea power amid rising tensions with its neighbours, experts say.
Other nations see signs of China's rising assertiveness in its' ships frequent sailings in waters that are also claimed by other countries. Xinhua reported yesterday that three Chinese maritime surveillance ships were patrolling waters near the disputed Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus, in the East China Sea.
China is also involved in territorial rows with its southern neighbours, notably the Philippines and Vietnam, in the South China Sea.
At the 18th party congress in November, President Hu Jintao said China should become a maritime power commensurate with its economic standing. But experts said the contrasting roles and mandates of at least nine agencies - not including the PLA, which also has a stake in maritime law enforcement - created obstacles to Beijing strengthening its claims to disputed territories.
The nine agencies include the public security ministry, which manages the nation's borders; the transport ministry, in charge of rescue operations; the agriculture ministry, which oversees fisheries; customs and excise; the State Oceanic Administration, whose mandate includes undersea resources; and local government agencies.
Some senior army staff - including Major General Luo Yuan , who is considered hawkish - have called for a specialised maritime law enforcement agency to be set up.
"Each of these agencies has different interests and aims, and there is no one superior official to co-ordinate them," said Zhang Mingliang , a specialist on South China Sea affairs at Jinan University. "The result is that, far from helping to tackle the territorial disputes, they make things more chaotic."
"A powerful man is needed to make the top decisions when the different agencies start jockeying for their own interests," he said.
Another South China Sea specialist, Li Guoqiang , of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said making the State Oceanic Administration, currently under the Ministry of Land and Resources, an independent ministry was necessary to develop undersea resources.