China Has a Real Terrorism Problem Now

How It Works
May 22 2014 4:10 PM

China Has a Real Terrorism Problem Now

175664632-this-picture-taken-on-august-5-2013-shows-the-shell-of
The shell of a burnt-out bus is towed by a rescue vehicle along a street in Urumqi on Aug. 5, 2013.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

I’m a bit surprised that the explosion that killed dozens of people at an open-air market in the city of Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang province yesterday hasn’t gotten more international notice. It may be because this is a pretty busy international news day, or because of the sheer quantity of China-related news for the world to digest right now.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

But I suspect it's also because these incidents are becoming depressingly commonplace. Today’s explosion follows recent deadly attacks on train stations in Guangzhou, Urumqi, and Kunming, all of them blamed on Uighur extremists from Xinjiang. 

Advertisement

Today’s attack, however, is of another order of magnitude more serious. With at least 30 dead, it may be China’s most serious terrorist attack in years, and the use of explosives indicates an escalation in tactics over the other recent attacks, most of which were mass stabbings. The mysterious car attack on Tiananmen Square, which took place while I was in Beijing last October, would have been a substantially more serious event if the perpetrators had used the tactics seen today.

It’s becoming clear that China is a country with a serious terrorism problem. Earlier this month a report issued by Beijing University’s Centre for International Strategy and Security Studies highlighted the issue, warning that “Terror attacks in China have become more active than in previous years in both the number and seriousness of the attacks. The anti-terrorism condition facing China is grave."

A Xinhua article this month also highlighted the fact that "Separatists appear to be shifting their focus from symbols of the government – such as public security stations and police vehicles – to random, ordinary civilians, and operating in areas outside Xinjiang."

After the last attack in Urumqi, President Xi Jinping promised a “strike first” strategy against separatists in Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims have longed agitated for independence and claimed discrimination by the authorities.

But with attacks expanding in both geographical scope and severity, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Beijing’s default strategy of cracking down hard on Xinjiang isn’t working.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 18 2014 12:47 PM How One of the Most Prolific Known Forgers in Modern History Faked Great Works of Art
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 18 2014 12:37 PM The Movies May Have Forgotten About Them, but Black Cowboys Are Thriving
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 12:46 PM The World Is Warming. So Why Is Antarctic Sea Ice Hitting Record Highs?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.