China Daily (Hong Kong)
US ‘double standard’ seen as a hindrance
Removal of group from list needs to be reversed to help renew trust, expert says
Global counterterrorism collaboration is needed to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a haven for terrorists following the United States’ withdrawal, observers in Washington say.
But one roadblock is how the US categorizes the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM.
The ETIM was designated a terrorist organization by the US in 2002 as Washington sought Beijing’s help in what was called a global war on terrorism.
The ETIM has called for the independence of the Xinjiang autonomous region in Northwest China and is blamed for orchestrating conflicts and a series of terrorist assaults on China’s northern border.
However, last November the US removed it from the terrorist list.
China has consistently expressed opposition to the move, saying the US applies a double standard in designating terrorists.
The US placed the ETIM on the terrorist list because it was well established as engaging in terrorist activity and training with al-Qaida, said Bill Jones, the Washington bureau chief of Executive Intelligence Review. Removing the ETIM from the list was purely political, he said.
“The Trump administration made a political decision of withdrawing the terrorist designation of ETIM, and the Biden administration accepted it. (But) the US did not preclude that the ETIM was involved in terrorist actions. So it is creating a double standard trying to keep the ETIM alive.”
This was clearly directed at China, and may have caused unrest in Xinjiang, Jones said.
“It is not only in counterterrorism. There is a clear distinction in how the US deals with the same phenomenon with ‘friends’ and those considered ‘rivals’; it is clearly a geopolitical tool.”
Samuel Mok, a former chief financial officer of the US Labor Department, said: “It is a political maneuver. The US is pursuing an ambiguous standard in the definition of terrorist, which sets the biggest obstacle to cooperation between the two sides.”
Jones said that if the US put the ETIM back on the list it might help improve Sino-US relations.
Afghanistan is a place where the two countries can seek to work together, analysts say.
“Because US-China relations are at a low point, an uptick is theoretically possible,” said Douglas Paal, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“The fall of Afghanistan does diminish the US’ tendency under Biden to insist on speaking from a ‘position of strength’ to Beijing.”
Ian Johnson, a journalist who has spent 20 years in China, said: “Right now both countries must focus on points they have in common; this can build mutual trust and lead to smoother relations.”