Saturday, September 27, 2014

Should the U.S. Cooperate with China on Terrorism?


China File - 09.26.14

Richard Bernstein: Of course, they should.  But can they?  Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in the United States, China has defined almost any dissent from its policies there as examples of international terrorism.  It has also consistently tried to win western acquiescence in its suppression of the Uighurs by claiming that all Uighur protests, whether peaceful or violent, against China’s harsh rule in Xinjiang amount to terrorism.  For well over a decade, China’s propaganda has identified a group it calls the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, as a main instigator of Uighur violence in China, saying that ETIM has training camps in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan and is closely linked to al-Qaeda.  
Given the absence of peaceful avenues of protest and the mounting frustrations of many Uighurs, it is certainly possible that some Uighurs have joined extremist Muslim groups, and perhaps have instigated some of the Uighur violence.   Still, China has been able to produce no persuasive evidence that any Uighurs at all, much less a significant number of them, have actually joined the international jihad. Still less has it demonstrated that Uighur violence in China is anything other than local rage at China’s various methods of control, rather than part of the international jihadist movement.
Given this troubling circumstance, could China make a useful contribution in the newest anti-terrorist battleground, against ISIS in Syria and Iraq?  In general, China’s participation in international anti-terrorism efforts has so far been limited to support for UN Security Council resolutions.  In the past day or so, for example, China supported a resolution, sponsored by the United States, demanding that countries take action to stop the flow of foreign jihadists to Syria and Iraq.  The online Chinese daily Global Times reports that China has also promised to “strengthen our cooperation with various parties in intelligence sharing and personnel training.”
This could be a positive step.  If China chooses to make a real contribution against real, as opposed to imaginary, terrorists, that would, of course, be welcome.   But so far, the indication is that that China will attempt to use the new situation, as it did the attacks on 9/11, to divert attention from its repression of peaceful and lawful dissent in Xinjiang, illustrated most recently and most starkly by the life sentence meted out to the peaceful Uighur scholar-dissident Ilhan Tothi. If the rest of the world allows this “cooperation” to take place, it will not be so much gaining Chinese help in the real anti-terrorism fight as it will be collaborating in China’s ongoing violations of the rights of its Uighur citizens.