China should adopt clear attitude on ISIS

By Zhao Kejin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 30, 2015
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A photo shows the Norwegian and Chinese hostages. The Islamist State has claimed that it has killed the two captives. [Photo: Agencies]

A photo shows the Norwegian and Chinese hostages. The Islamist State has claimed that it has killed the two captives. [Photo: Agencies]

A Chinese national named Fan Jinghui was executed by ISIS on Nov. 19, demonstrating again the terrorist group's total lack of humanity. All the atrocities it has committed so far demonstrate its contempt for the norms of decency. The entire world should unite to build a coalition against it.

Don't politicize IS issue

Countries in the world have demonstrated a tendency to politicize the IS issue. Some seem to think they can leave the IS alone as long as it does not pose threats to their own interests. Some adopt a pacifist attitude and think that the terrorist group can help them break free from the control of other countries. These ideas are completely wrong.

The terrorist actions of the group are major issues of principle: an ambiguous attitude is irresponsible and an attempt to play politics even more so, deserving of condemnation by the international community.

China's attitude was announced by President Xi Jinping in his statement on Nov. 19. China strongly condemned the killing of a Chinese citizen and "firmly opposes terrorism of all forms" and "will resolutely crack down on any terrorist crime that challenges the bottom line of human civilization."

President Xi also pledged "China will strengthen cooperation with the international community, resolutely crack down on violent terrorist operations that devastate innocent lives and safeguard world peace and security."

Some in China say the rise of the IS can help China alleviate pressure from the United States and extend the country's period of strategic opportunity. However, tackling the pressure from the U.S. and the threat from the IS are two different things and should not be linked.

Back in 2001, China found itself under increasing pressure from the U.S. However, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place, China immediately adopted a firm stance against terrorism and its support of America's counterterrorism actions. That attitude did not increase the strategic pressure from the U.S. but instead helped China enter the WTO and win U.S. support for holding the 2008 Olympic Games.

Thus, an ambiguous attitude on ISIS will not help China mitigate U.S. pressure nor necessarily increase it. We are not afraid and will not avoid competition with the U.S., a competition based on rules in line with human civilization that will eventually help the two countries develop a new pattern of relations featuring both cooperation and competition. ISIS is different: it is a group that goes against human civilization. China should not have any hesitation on fighting it.

Why is a clear attitude vital?

There are three reasons that China should have a strategically clear attitude towards ISIS.

First, counterterrorism is in the strategic interests of China becoming a global power. As China becomes more involved in economic globalization and closely integrated with the world -- especially with the "Road and Belt" initiative and its underlying projects -- ISIS is not an issue the country can get around.

Every year, more than 100 million Chinese travel outside the country; there are numerous overseas projects; China is now the world's largest trading country; and there are more and more overseas assets -- all these require a peaceful and stable international environment.

Second, fighting against terrorism is also a key part of China participating in global governance. President Xi has emphasized repeatedly China should involve itself more in global governance and have more say and influence. When we talk about global governance, the fight against terrorism is part of that, and China should make more efforts to create a peaceful and safe international environment.

Third, counterterrorism is concerned with China's core national interests. Among all the sub groups within the ISIS movement, there is a 300-strong terrorist force from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a recognized terrorist group. The group has committed atrocities time and again in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and other places, threatening the security of the entire country. In order to root out the terrorist group, we must actively fight against ISIS.

Therefore China should have concrete actions in spearheading that fight, which will demonstrate the country's role as a genuine responsible great power. Furthermore, with an increasingly important presence in the world, China cannot isolate itself from security threats.

It should maintain its national interests and meanwhile provide more public goods to the international community. It is the requirement of the country's development and the need of times.

The writer is a senior researcher with the Charhar Institute and the vice dean of the Department of International Relations of Tsinghua University.

The article was first published in Chinese and translated by Zhang Lulu.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of

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