The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
China Blames Religious Extremists, Syrian Rebels for Xinjiang Unrest

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The people who, in the words of the Chinese Communist Global Times newspaper, “burned and destroyed vehicles, and wielded knives, madly slashing and killing police and innocent members of the public” in Xinjiang last week received training in Syria. In all, 35 people were killed in those attacks. Reports out of Xinjiang are unreliable, especially since Beijing muzzles and harasses foreign reporters who try to travel to the remote region, but the finger-pointing by official Chinese media is still useful: it tells us exactly how Beijing interprets what’s happening in Syria.

Until now, China has blamed outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Fighters for that organization have been known to hide out and train in Pakistan alongside al-Qaeda. A reporter for the Global Times ”has recently exclusively learned from the Chinese anti-terrorism authorities that since 2012, some members of the ‘East Turkestan’ faction have entered Syria from Turkey, participated in extremist, religious and terrorist organizations within the Syrian opposition forces and fought against the Syrian army…. At the same time, these elements from ‘East Turkestan’ have identified candidates to sneak into Chinese territory to plan and execute terrorist attacks.”

That the Chinese authorities are blaming a “violent terrorist gang” whose members have obvious Muslim names, as the New York Times reports, won’t help Pakistan’s effort to deepen its alliance with China as its ties to the US unravel; Pakistan has never showed an interest in denying safe haven to Islamic extremists—even those who target China. And it won’t give the Syrian rebels or their international allies like Turkey much hope that China will change its pro-Assad stance on the Syrian civil war.

[Xi Jinping photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

Published on July 1, 2013 3:20 pm