Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an Algeria-based offshoot of al-Qaeda, has reportedly threatened to target Chinese interests overseas in retaliation for Beijing’s crackdown against Uighurs in Xinjiang last week in which 192 people were killed.
Quoting a security consultancy, the South China Morning Post wrote that while AQIM — a loose umbrella for North African extremist organizations, according to terrorism experts — was the first al-Qaeda-linked group to issue such a threat against China, others were likely to follow.
It matters little if, according to Beijing, 137 of the 192 people who were killed in the clashes in Xinjiang were Han rather than Muslim. For extremist organizations like AQIM (a rebranding of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, or GSPC) and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), decades of victimization of Muslims in Xinjiang and the attendant list of grievances are the essence of the problem; last week’s violence was simply the trigger.
Interestingly enough, the targeting of China follows a pattern established with the West, and the US in particular, in which the interests of the “oppressor” are targeted by al-Qaeda where they are weakest — and as a means to place pressure on the central government to (a) change a policy and (b) leave the region.
In this case, the proximate enemy is China, but ETIM and other extremist organizations in Central Asia are in no position to target the Chinese government head-on.
Instead, they will punish Beijing by attacking soft targets abroad: Chinese workers, diplomatic missions, companies and so on.
Like the US, China will be the victim of its growing presence abroad. Given China’s reliance on oil and natural gas, combined with the fact that a large share of those resources comes from the Persian Gulf, Africa and Central Asia, exposure of Chinese interests to radical groups will not be minimal.
In coming weeks and months, therefore, we can expect kidnappings and attacks on soft Chinese targets in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Maghreb and the Middle East, and possibly in parts of Latin America, with the first two regions the likeliest to see violence.
Should this transpire, we can predict that China, which so far has remained relatively stand-offish on security in these regions, will become more involved militarily in Central Asia to protect its nationals and its interests — particularly the flow of energy.
This also has implications for Taiwan.
Two things stand out. First, by virtue of their similar features and language, Taiwanese abroad could be mistaken for Chinese and targeted by extremist organizations.
This is akin to the threat level facing Caucasians whenever al-Qaeda or other extremist organizations call for attacks against Americans or Britons.
Another offshoot of this threat is that US-China cooperation on anti-terrorism could be boosted, as a terrorist attack against Chinese interests would “confirm” that Beijing and Washington face a common enemy.
If this were to happen, Beijing would acquire yet another tool with which to manipulate the US — especially under a scenario in which the People’s Liberation Army is called upon to exercise a security role in Central Asia and perhaps in Afghanistan, where ETIM elements are believed to have sought refuge.
J. Michael Cole is a writer based in Taipei and the author of Democracy in Peril: Taiwan’s Struggle for Survival from Chen Shui-bian to Ma Ying-jeou.
Even clumsy communicators occasionally say something worth hearing. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, for example. He has of late been accused of muddling his messages in support of Ukraine and much else. However, if you pay attention, he is actually trying to achieve something huge: a global — rather than “Western” — alliance of democracies against autocracies such as Russia and China. By accepting that mission, he has in effect taken the baton from US President Joe Biden, who hosted a rather underwhelming “summit for democracy” in December. That was before Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, when rallying the freedom-loving nations
In the past 30 years, globalization has given way to an international division of labor, with developing countries focusing on export manufacturing, while developed countries in Europe and the US concentrate on internationalizing service industries to drive economic growth. The competitive advantages of these countries can readily be seen in the global financial market. For example, Taiwan has attracted a lot of global interest with its technology industry. The US is the home of leading digital service companies, such as Meta Platforms (Facebook), Alphabet (Google) and Microsoft. The country holds a virtual oligopoly of the global market for consumer digital
Ideas matter. They especially matter in world affairs. And in communist countries, it is communist ideas, not supreme leaders’ personality traits, that matter most. That is the reality in the People’s Republic of China. All Chinese communist leaders — from Mao Zedong (毛澤東) through Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), from Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) through to Xi Jinping (習近平) — have always held two key ideas to be sacred and self-evident: first, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is infallible, and second, that the Marxist-Leninist socialist system of governance is superior to every alternative. The ideological consistency by all CCP leaders,
Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on Saturday expounded on her concept of replacing “unification” with China with “integration.” Lu does not she think the idea would be welcomed in its current form; rather, she wants to elicit discussion on a third way to break the current unification/independence impasse, especially given heightened concerns over China attacking Taiwan in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She has apparently formulated her ideas around the number “three.” First, she envisions cross-strait relations developing in three stages: having Beijing lay to rest the idea of unification of “one China” (一個中國); next replacing this with