Jihadists turning hostile toward China?

While jihadists have long been critical of China for its discriminatory policies toward Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) means it will create infrastructures in areas where jihadist cells are also present, thus creating new threats for Chinese companies and citizens, writes Jan Wojcik (a board member of the European Issues Institute, an independent think tank based in Warsaw) in an article published on the European Eye on Radicalization website (June 25). Jihadist groups used to see Western countries and Jews as their main foreign enemies, but China has also caught their attention over the past 10 years, despite the country’s efforts not to interfere in the internal policies of Muslim countries and its cautious approaches that have even allowed it to keep good contacts with the Taliban. The fate of Muslim Uyghurs is denounced by jihadists, but they are mostly not able to target China in its own territory due to the high level of state control.

The agreements between China and local governments as part of its ambitious New Silk Road development project started breeding discontent since they seemed to bring little improvement to local populations, not to mention corruption, waste of money, and a lack of transparency in the dealings. In addition to Central Asian and some Pakistani jihadist groups already hostile to China, international groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda have voiced criticism of China over the past ten years, Wojcik notes, even if it is not the priority for most of them at this point. Hostility to China extends beyond Central Asia, as shown for instance by growing threats from al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) against Chinese workers in North Africa and Chinese investments in Africa’s Sahel. It is no coincidence that a recent law was passed in China allowing the People’s Liberation Army to deploy abroad and take part in counterterrorism operations, although the protection of infrastructures that are part of the BRI is ensured by some 20 private security companies lacking counterterrorism expertise. The global expansion of China is also associated with risks, and jihadist groups may become one of them.

(European Eye on Radicalization, https://eeradicalization.com)

Source: Al-Mesbar Studies & Research Center, 2018