China’s lim­ited op­tions ex­posed by IS killing

Beijing mulls law en­abling counter-ter­ror­ism mis­sions abroad

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEIJING: The killing of a Chi­nese cit­i­zen by Is­lamic State has shone the spot­light on China’s paucity of op­tions when its peo­ple are kid­napped abroad, de­spite its grow­ing mil­i­tary prow­ess and in­ter­na­tional pro­file. With its forces un­tried abroad and its diplo­matic in­flu­ence lim­ited in the Mid­dle East, it is hand­i­capped when faced with cases like Fan Jinghui, whose killing mil­i­tants an­nounced this week.

China has pre­vi­ously ob­tained the release of work­ers kid­napped in places like Pak­istan and Africa, though di­plo­mats say it is of­ten by pay­ing ran­soms. On so­cial me­dia, some users urged a more com­bat­ive re­sponse. “China should have sent troops and joined the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion against IS to take real steps to fight ter­ror­ism,” wrote one per­son on Weibo, China’s an­swer to Twit­ter.

To ad­dress the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of its grow­ing global com­mer­cial and diplo­matic in­ter­ests, Beijing is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing a law that would cre­ate a le­gal frame­work for send­ing troops abroad on counter-ter­ror­ism mis­sions. Ar­ti­cle 76 would au­tho­rise the mil­i­tary, as well as state and pub­lic se­cu­rity per­son­nel, to con­duct coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions abroad with the ap­proval of the rel­e­vant coun­try.

The draft law was made pub­lic late last year, but it’s not clear when it may be passed. China’s se­cu­rity chief said this week in the wake of the Paris at­tacks that the gov­ern­ment needed to get on with it. Ja­pan is speed­ing up the cre­ation of a unit ded­i­cated to gath­er­ing in­tel­li­gence about terror at­tacks af­ter Is­lamic State killed Ja­panese hostages.

China’s abil­ity to deal with se­cu­rity is­sues at home was in ev­i­dence on Fri­day in the western prov­ince of Xin­jiang, where it said it killed 28 “ter­ror­ists” from a group that car­ried out a deadly at­tack at a coal mine in Septem­ber.

But a le­gal frame­work wouldn’t com­pen­sate for its in­ex­pe­ri­ence over­seas. “We can cer­tainly deal with ter­ror­ism at home, but it’s to­tally dif­fer­ent if you talk about send­ing peo­ple abroad to do this. Our ex­pe­ri­ence is here, not abroad. And there are so many diplo­matic is­sues to con­sider,” said Pan Zhip­ing, a ter­ror­ism ex­pert at the Xin­jiang Acad­emy of So­cial Sci­ences. “You’d need per­mis­sion from so many coun­tries to fly peo­ple there. It would be ter­ri­bly com­pli­cated.”

BEST AVOIDED While re­ly­ing on the re­gion for oil sup­plies, China tends to leave Mid­dle East­ern diplo­macy to the other five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, namely the United States, Bri­tain, France and Rus­sia. China has long said there is no mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to Syria’s prob­lems and has crit­i­cised the West and Rus­sia for bomb­ing cam­paigns there not sanc­tioned by the UN.

“China would not do any­thing with­out United Na­tions’ author­ity,” said a source fa­mil­iar with China’s diplo­matic think­ing, dis­miss­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of se­cret raids in Syria by Chi­nese mil­i­tary res­cuers. China’s De­fence Min­istry did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on whether it had con­sid­ered try­ing to res­cue Fan. The For­eign Min­istry said it ac­ti­vated an emer­gency mech­a­nism to try to save him, but has given no de­tails.

Se­cu­rity oper­a­tions by China abroad are not un­prece­dented. It sent gun­boats down the Mekong River in co­op­er­a­tion with Thai­land, Myan­mar and Laos in 2011 to com­bat drug run­ning, and its navy has con­ducted anti-piracy pa­trols off the Horn of Africa.

The killing of Fan has prompted hand­wring­ing in China about the dif­fi­cul­ties of re­spond­ing ef­fec­tively to such in­ci­dents. In­flu­en­tial tabloid the Global Times said while China is of­ten suc­cess­ful in res­cue oper­a­tions in other places, its op­tions were lim­ited when deal­ing with a group like Is­lamic State in a re­gion where China is a diplo­matic out­sider.

“East Asian coun­tries are far from the Mid­dle East, and have ba­si­cally not got­ten in­volved in the dis­putes there,” it said in an ed­i­to­rial, adding the best so­lu­tion was for Chi­nese to avoid dan­ger­ous re­gions. That looked like a for­lorn hope late yes­ter­day, as China’s state-run Xin­hua news agency said there were sev­eral Chi­nese guests among those taken hostage by gun­men at a ho­tel in Mali’s cap­i­tal Bamako. — Reuters

SEPANG: China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping (L) and his wife Peng Liyuan (R) wave from their air­craft as they ar­rive to at­tend the 27th As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) Sum­mit, at the Bunga Raya Com­plex at the Kuala Lumpur In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Sepang yes­ter­day.— AFP

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