It also feeds into Beijing’s portrayal of China as a party which tries to promote maritime stability by relying on its coast guard instead of using its navy.
Given the timing of the law, there is also a debate on whether Beijing is trying to test the resolve of the new U.S. administration of President Joe Biden to stand up for countries in and around the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
“Seeking to drive a wedge between Washington and its regional allies, Beijing has thrown a gauntlet to the new Biden administration,” said Mohan Malik, visiting fellow at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies of the U.S. Department of Defense.
“Beijing's deployment of bigger and more powerful ‘coast guard’ ships in the South China Sea for ramming purposes indicate a serious escalation in the maritime disputes,” he said.
“It also shows Beijing's growing confidence in escalation control as China ups the ante against its smaller and weaker neighbors.”
Zhiqun Zhu, chair of the Department of International Relations at Bucknell University, does not think enactment of the new law was related to the change of government in Washington.
“I think the timing of the passage of this new law is unfortunate, but I don't think it was designed to test the Joe Biden administration,” he said.
“The new law is meant to follow international conventions, not aimed at a particular country or to provoke the Biden administration. China needs to allay external concerns about the new law by clearly explaining its intentions.”