View Full Version : China gets ready to fight back

06-03-05, 14:13
NEW DELHI: In the wake of the reports that 1000 Chinese separatists have been trained by Al-Qaeda, the Chinese government has launched a war on terror by establishing the world's largest centre for counter-terrorism.

With this, China has joined the roll-of-honour alongside the US in its fight against the war on global terror. The counter-terrorism headquarters will be located in Beijing.

The campaign comes in the wake of counter-terrorism drive initiated by China for the last two years in fighting the Uighur separatism in the Xinjiang province of northwest China sponsored by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Uighurs are Turkic-speaking largest minority group with a population of 6 million and Xinjiang province accounts for one sixth of the Chinese territory.

Gen Xiong Guangkai, Deputy Chief of Chinese Army feared that 1000 Uighur separatists have were trained by Al-Qaeda though there have been evidence of training bases to substantiate his view.

"This campaign comes under the wake of the Chinese statement that Xinjiang is harbouring terrorists. The campaign began in 2004 and the fact that the headquarters are established in Beijing is a concrete expression of the setting up of this centre", says Srikanth Kondapalli, a China watcher and a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, India's strategic think-tank.

"China has declared war on three evils alongside Bush's expression of five evils post 9/11. The objective of the campaign is to fight extremism, separatism and terrorism. Fight Uighurs against separatism, Tibetans against splitism and inadvertently the Taiwanese against terrorism. And for the first time, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has admitted that there has been a concerted training programme by terrorists," he adds.

The PLA has shifted its military doctrine towards counter insurgency over the years.

In a move to beef up resources to fight the war against terror, the strength of the People and Police Force (PAPF) over the years has increased to 2 million.

The PAPF is responsible for fighting the counter-insurgency operations in China.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meetings and its proceedings have been a fillip to this campaign.

The Chinese launched four campaigns; one with the Central Asian Countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) and the other with Pakistan at a Pakistan Friendship Meet in 2004 discussing Lhasa, Guangxi and Xinjian- one in August 2003, two in November 2003 and one in August 2004.

China released a white paper on terrorist organisations operating in China that was supported by the US State Department. The Chinese Ministry of Public security has listed 11 terrorist organizations among which ETIM, World Uighur Youth Congress and East Turkistan Information Centre are some of the few.

Srikanth says, "Pre 9/11, the US position was that they saw the Ughuirs of Xinjiang province as freedom fighters. Post 9/11, it changed. Bush warned the terrorists who wanted to undermine Asia's hard-fought economic gains during his APEC meeting in Shanghai in 2001. Buy my hunch is that the US still thinks of the Chinese extremists as freedom fighters."

Pakistan has been one of the key partners in this campaign launched by China.

"The China- CAR campaign against counter-terrorism is critical to the global war on terror," says Ramakant Dwivedi, a CAR expert and an Associate Fellow at the IDSA. Srikant adds, "So is the China-Pakistan campaign."

China has been quite careful in not allowing India into the SCO which has 6 members with Mongolia as an observer.

It is reluctant to admit India into the SCO because India may emerge as a dominant player feel experts.

The establishment of the counter terrorism centre might have global ramifications. "The fear is that NATO can use this as a Kosovo-kind of campaign while China thought it was interference by Yugoslavia then. Chinese will do more of these exercises in Tibet and Xinjiang province. Though the Dalai Lama is not a terrorist, the Chinese are painting him in a manner that will meet their demands of this campaign."

China is a signatory to numerous counter-terrorism agreements and has joint-intelligent sharing with UK, France, US, India and CAR countries and Pakistan on Ughuirs, Tibetans and Mongolians though Mongolian are seen only as a fringe threat.

But by definitions of terrorism, China has included Mongolia as well.

Largely the Indian and Chinese definitions are similar who see it as a law and order problem and resulting from socio-economic contradictions as opposed to the American index of terrorism.

What is important is that the US State Department has welcomed this move and supports the Chinese campaign. "And in an effort to up the ante, the NPC has been debating for the last two or three days to control the independence movement in Taiwan and pass an Anti-Secession Law. Though the law per se may not provide the teeth, but it is a legal stick", says an analyst.

With growing internal problems in the mainland and Taiwan's firm democratic assertion, China has declared a strategic three-pronged war, namely the legal, psychological and media war.

The Chinese, they claim, have reasons to fear both from within and outside.

"From within, the Uighur attacks on the state machinery and personnel have increased till 260 in the Xinjiang province and they are not civilian casualties. Also the Chinese have executed Pakistani terrorists which has led to some friction between the two countries", says Srikanth.

"Outside, the Anti-Secession Law is part of the legal war to contain Taiwan, the psychological war will be on the lines of what the US Marines did in Iraq by distributing some 200,000 pamphlets defaming Saddam's regime and the media war to reiterated how Taiwan is still part of mainland China just as what the Indian army does in Kashmir", says Srikanth.

But there are concerns as well. The first and foremost concern is who will control and lead this campaign.

They are quick to ask as to who will lead the operations if the problem lie somewhere else, outside mainland China. The second problem is about funding and financing the operations.

It is still not clear as to where will the money come from. The third is the problem of bureaucracy. Will the show be run by the intelligence, operations or any other unit?

Finally, it is the legitimacy of the campaign itself.

If it is confined inside the Xinjiang province, it will certainly be called a Chinese show and probably a counter-terrorism campaign to tackle its internal security threat that might not gain currency.