The CCG is known to perform mostly coastal and oceanic search and rescue or patrols, including anti-smuggling operations. During wartime it may be placed under the operational control of the People's Liberation Army Navy.
The Chinese Coast Guard was not under an independent command until 2013. Formally they were part of the armed police, under the local (provincial) border defense force command. The largest operational unit of the CCG is a CCG flotilla, which is a regimental-level unit in China’s military administrative hierarchy. Every coastal province has 1 to 3 Coast Guard flotillas. Currently there are twenty CCG flotillas across the country:
The Chinese Coast Guard conducts periodic joint-training sessions with other navies, including the US Coast Guard service. The Chinese Coast Guard also participates in the annual North Pacific Coast Guard Agencies Forum in Alaska, along with US, Canadian, Japanese, South Korean, and Russian Coast Guards. As part of an exchange program, members of the Chinese Coast Guard service have been assigned to serve on U.S. Coast Guard cutters.
The CCG has received quite a few large patrol ships that would significantly enhance their operations. Hai Guan(customs), militia, police and other services operate hundreds of small patrol craft. For maritime patrol services, these craft are usually quite well armed with machine guns and 37mm AA guns. In addition, these services operate their own small aviation units to assist their maritime patrol capabilities. CCG operates a handful of Harbin Z-9 helicopters, and a maritime patrol aircraft based on the Harbin Y-12STOL transport.
Chinese Coast Guard ships are painted white with blue stripe and wording China Coast Guard in English and Chinese.
Typical Coast Guard ships include the 130 ton Type 218 patrol boat (100 boats), armed with twin 14.5mm machine guns, assorted speedboats, and few larger patrol ships. Up until very recently, the largest ship in Chinese Coast Guard service was the 1,500 ton Type 718 cutter (31101 Pudong).
In March 2007, it was reported that the PLAN has transferred 2 Type 728 cutter (44102,ex-509 Changde;46103，ex-510 Shaoxing) to the Coast Guard as and re-numbered 1002 & 1003. These ships are the largest vessels in the Coast Guard inventory.
Just like the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), CCG share the same distinct difference between it and most western equivalent, which is that unlike its western counterparts, CCG does not use ship prefixes internally. However, a system of ship prefixes similar to that of west has been developed by many internet sources for similar classification:
People's Republic of China Coast Guard Ship. China does not use ship prefixes internally.
People's Republic of China Ship: ships owned by various Chinese governmental administrative and regulatory bodies, all of which are subject to naval deployment. China does not use ship prefixes internally.
People's Republic of China Merchant Vessel. China does not use ship prefixes internally.
Law enforcement deployments to waters around Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands
Patrolled and demonstrated against JCG ships. Escorted Chinese voyager Zhai Mo sailing his Jiangtaigong yacht all the way down to Senkaku Island (the largest island of Senkaku Islands) within 3 nm, resisted JCG ships. CCG ships helped Jiangtaigong refill feul after the yacht ran out of oil.
Patrolled and enforced a law on CCG ships. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera orders Japanese troops to "boost alertness" as the "anniversary of the nationalization of Senkaku Islands" approaches. He warns against "Chinese naval and aerial provocations".
According CCG central command's screen, JCG sent 9 ships to intercept: PL-03 "Isokko", PLH-08 "Tsugaru", PL-61 "Hateruma", PL-62 "Ishigaki", PL-103 "Wakasa", PL-104 "Kii", PL-117 "Rebun", PL-125 "Katori", PL-126 "Kunigami".
Japanese Chief Cabinet SecretaryYoshihide Suga said "absolutely cannot accept CCG conducting law-enforcement operations in Japanese exclusive economical zones". He claimed that Japan had protested through diplomatic channels.
Patrolled and enforced a law on CCG ships. Japanese minister of defense Itsunori Onodera says "Japan should react to China's law-enforcement vessels intruding Japanese territorial waters" when he reviewed the military drill of Japanese First Parachute Regiment held at Funabashi. The drill is about landing on and "recapturing an outlying island from enemy's occupation".