The Language of Terrorism in China: Balancing Foreign and Domestic Policy Imperatives

The latest article by Nicholas Dynon for the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief…

In late October, central Beijing tasted terror when a flaming SUV rammed a crowd of tourists at the city’s iconic Tiananmen gate, killing the three alleged perpetrators and two bystanders. Authorities were quick to label the attack an act of jihadist terror.

The ensuing media commentary and controversy prompted questions around how terrorism is defined—and how terror incidents are framed—by Chinese authorities. Were the perpetrators of the attack radicalized Uighur Islamist insurgents or were they just normal folk marginalized and driven to extreme measures by an arbitrary and belligerent state?

Ultimately, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), an extremist group with purported links to al-Qaeda, praised the attack in a speech given by its leader posted online—a move that seemingly vindicated official finger pointing. While this perpetuates Beijing’s narrative of China as victim of international terrorism, it takes the focus away from a more inconvenient truth. Self-immolation, bombings and other indiscriminate attacks have abounded in China in recent years, and most have been carried out by citizens with no known terrorist, separatist or ethnic minority links. Yet as frequent as these attacks are, the use of “terrorism” to describe them in official media reportage has been noticeably absent. Read more

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[Propaganda feature in Beijing Airport’s Terminal 3, where frustrated petitioner, Ji Zhongxing, detonated a homemade bomb last July]

 

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