Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, Islamic State and China’s Pivot West

The downfall of its oil and security tsar gives China a chance to salvage relations with its Muslim minority.

By Yo-Jung Chen

The Diplomat - September 09, 2014

After years of living under the threat of the likes of Al Qaida, Taliban and other Islamic extremists, the world is discovering a new and much more fearsome brand of terror in the fast-spreading Islamic State, or IS, in the Middle East.  Few people in East Asia would feel directly concerned by the gruesome accounts of the battles and atrocities involving IS in the remote Middle East. But is the threat really all that distant?  In an August 11 article in Foreign Policy, Alexa Olesen observed how China (or at least segments of the Chinese media) is taking seriously a July 4 speech by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which called for a jihad against countries that “seized Muslim rights.” China tops the list of the dozen such countries for the way it is accused of treating the minority Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang. The IS chief even seemed to have threatened to occupy part of Xinjiang.  Even though the threat of occupying a chunk of Chinese territory seems far removed from reality, the Chinese do have a legitimate reason to brace themselves against what amounted to a declaration of war from what is now the most feared Islamic extremist organization in the world. Apart from foreseeable terrorist acts against Chinese citizens and interests both at home (especially in Xinjiang) and abroad, Chinese strategists must also worry about the future of their cherished westward pivot through Central Asia.