How China uses fear of terrorism to justify increased state power

(CNN)China’s long-simmering problems with Uyghur separatism and terrorism in the western region of Xinjiang has been thrust again into the international spotlight.

The U.S. State Department has criticized China’s “lack of transparency” regarding its claims of Uyghur terrorism in Xinjiang, questioned Beijing’s stated desire for greater counter-terrorism cooperation with the U.S., and said Chinese policies in the region “may have exacerbated ethnic tension” and contributed to “increased violent extremism.”
    State media in Xinjiang reported this week that some Uyghur inhabitants would be required to provide DNA samples, fingerprints and a “three-dimensional image,” when applying for passports or other travel documents.
    China has dismissed criticism of its policies in the region as “inaccurate and “un-objective.”
    It is clear however that Beijing has increasingly instrumentalized the threat of terrorism in both domestic and foreign policy.
    While China’s claims of links between Uyghur groups and global jihadist organizations are over-stated, connections are growing. This, combined with increased incidences of terrorism within China has permitted Beijing to both justify its hardline repression of dissent in Xinjiang and link it to global efforts to combat terrorism.


    While official pronouncements stress that the law’s primary purpose is to strengthen Beijing’s ability to ensure the security and safety of the country’s citizenry and interests at home and abroad, a closer examination suggests that ensuring the security of the state lies at its heart.
    Since coming to power, President Xi Jinping has focused on two core domestic security issues: Xinjiang and wenwei, or “stability maintenance,” campaigns.
    Under Xi, the threat of terrorism in Xinjiang has been instrumentalized nationwide to assist in Communist Party efforts to maintain “stability.”
    “The mobilization of the Uyghur terror threat,” as Tom Cliff has recently argued, is “not simply about preventing terror attacks on Han civiliansit is primarily about rapidly or even pre-emptively ‘harmonizing’ potentially unstable elements of the Han population itself.”
    Two of the Communist Party’s core interests — the security of the one-party state, and “stability” in Xinjiang — have thus become increasingly intersected.

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