In a dramatic video that recently appeared online, a Chinese Coast Guard 056 corvette (patrol boat) can be seen using a water cannon to warn a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China Sea region.
The Twitter account @Renkai_Mineyuki first uploaded the clip on January 15. The video, recorded by a fisherman, shows a Chinese coast guard ship firing water cannon in the direction of a Vietnamese fishing boat.
“A video of a Chinese Coast Guard 056 corvette (patrol boat) using a water cannon to warn a Vietnamese fishing boat in the waters near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea,” the caption read.
The incident allegedly occurred in the waters near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The video has garnered a lot of attention online and has had more than 65,000 views at the time of filing this report.
Type 056 is a corvette that primarily performs mid-range green-water missions and coastal tasks instead of blue-water combat operations. These vessels are intended to increase the authority of China’s enforcement agency and deal with complex maritime situations more proactively.
The PLA Navy initially operated these ships but later transferred a batch of Type 056 ships to the Chinese coast guard. In February 2022, the state-run Global Times reported that the PLA Navy transferred about 20 Type 056 corvettes to the Coast Guard.
The Shanghai-based Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard customized some of these ships for the Coast Guard. China produced 72 Type 056 series corvettes between 2012 and 2019, including the anti-submarine variant, the Type 056A, making them a comparatively modern design.
The original Type 056 had a displacement of only 1,300 tons. It was armed with a 76-millimeter rapid-fire cannon, two 30-millimeter guns, two triple-barreled 324-millimeter torpedo launchers, two double-barreled YJ-83 anti-ship missile launchers, and an eight-barrel HQ-10A air defense missile system.
The Type 056 corvette was designed to replace Type 037’s outmoded role in coastal defense duties. But by 2021, the PLA Navy had accumulated a sizable number of technologically superior ships and had begun to place a greater emphasis on combat.
Chinese experts noted that the PLA Navy has grown to a point where it has larger and more sophisticated vessels, which has reduced its need for the Type 056 corvette in littoral combat.
It claimed that Type 056 could withstand a collision between vessels, which is common in maritime confrontations, better than civilian ships and could undertake electronic jamming.
The corvette’s missile and torpedo launchers were taken out before being transferred to the coast guard. However, the corvette’s 76mm main gun and 30mm autocannons were left in place, apparently to maintain its deterrence capabilities, according to a report in Chinese media.
China-Vietnam Maritime Tensions
Tensions between Vietnamese fishermen and the Chinese Coast Guard are not new. The Chinese Navy has frequently attacked or taken captive Vietnamese fishermen.
In April 2020, a Chinese ship struck and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat close to the contested Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
Since 2014, Vietnam’s local fishing association has reported that 98 Vietnamese boats had been wrecked by Chinese vessels near Ly Son island, where hundreds of fishermen and their families rely on fishing for livelihood.
Beijing claims the whole South China Sea as its territory. It has constructed artificial islands with military-capable infrastructure over reefs and outcrops, giving rise to a territorial dispute with Vietnam.
China has been more assertive in this area under President Xi Jinping, who was elected for a record-breaking third time. Beijing took control of the Paracel Islands in 1974 after confrontations with the South Vietnamese Navy, killing 75 Vietnamese troops.
According to Ly Son island’s fishing association, Chinese Coast Guard ships frequently shoot down the Vietnamese flags that fly over the cabin of each fishing boat, leaving the crew with little alternative than to sail away for fear of what will happen if they continue to resist. Hanoi affirmed its desire for a peaceful resolution, unlike China.
On the other hand, China claimed that its activities in the region had been underway for a decade and were “legitimate, justified, and lawful.” Nevertheless, expanding China’s Coast Guard in the region is one of the most aggressive steps in the country’s steady push to assert its sovereignty in the South China Sea.