Xinjiang and the Trans-nationalization of Uyghur Terrorism: Cracks in the “New Silk Road”?

President Xi Jinping’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” strategy has magnified Chinese concern for the security of its long restive northwestern province, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Xinjiang, as Owen Lattimore argued, throughout much of recorded history constituted (along with Tibet and Mongolia) the “marginal Inner Asian zone” of Chinese expansion.1 With the region’s “peaceful liberation” by the PLA in 1949, however, Beijing sought to overcome this marginality through encouragement of Han Chinese settlement and extension of the institutions of state control. Since the late 1980s, its approach has rested on turning Xinjiang’s geopolitical position to China’s advantage through a “double opening”: to simultaneously integrate the region with China proper in economic terms and to establish security and cooperation with Central Asian neighbors.2

The region was envisaged as an industrial and agricultural base for the national economy and a trade and energy corridor linking China to the energy and resource states of Central Asia and the Middle East.3 The core assumption has been that economic development and modernization will ultimately overcome Uyghur aspirations for greater political autonomy.4 This has been amplified under OBOR with the State Council’s National Reform and Development Commission’s (NDRC) March 2015 policy document on the “Belt and Road.” identifying the exploitation of Xinjiang’s “geographic advantages and its role as a window of westward opening-up” as a key to success.5 Such narratives, as Hassan Karrar has noted, envisage the “new Silk Road” as “a regulated, structural interconnectivity between Eurasian states” with China at the center due to “its location, economic clout, insatiable thirst for energy, and increasing geopolitical leverage.”6

Such transnational connectivity, while holding the potential to enhance China’s influence across its Eurasian frontiers, has also created opportunities for the transmission of unregulated currents antithetical to its core goal of integrating and controlling Xinjiang. Recent events, from the “mass stabbing” attack at Kunming’s railway station in March 2014 to the August 30, 2016 attack on the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, suggest that China is increasingly troubled by terrorism. Yet, such a perception must be tempered by an appreciation that such incidents are a continuation of a long-term struggle between Beijing’s quest to integrate this diverse region and the aspirations of the Uyghurs for greater autonomy.

While incidents such as those in Kunming and Bishkek have provided further ballast for Beijing’s post-9/11 portrayal of Uyghur terrorism as increasingly transnational in nature, identification of the threat as “transnational” has had important effects on both its domestic governance within Xinjiang and its foreign policy. Acceptance of a security issue as trans-national can act as a “cognitive threat amplifier,” “essentially admitting loss of governmental control, which in turn implies a threat to national security.”7 The perception of linkages between internal unrest/violence and external sources of material or rhetorical support for separatism and terrorism has amplified long-standing concerns regarding the political consequences of Uyghur identity and socio-economic under-development. This has prompted the Chinese state to couple increased state-led economic development strategies with ongoing campaigns against aspects of Uyghur identity—such as religious practice—that are perceived to maintain or even accentuate the distinctiveness between the Uyghur population and the dominant Han Chinese culture. Beijing has deployed the issue of Uyghur separatism and terrorism to, first, structure its relationship with the Central Asian republics, and second, to legitimate both domestically and internationally the implementation of repression of Uyghur opposition in Xinjiang. China has, arguably, securitized the issue of Uyghur terrorism in the pursuit of key domestic and foreign policy goals.8

Terrorism and the “Internal-External” Security Nexus

In the post-Cold war era, especially after 9/11, both governments and academia have focused on the causes and effects of transnational security issues as a defining feature of international security. A core challenge for analysts has been to negotiate the extremes of contemporary security studies between traditional realist paradigms, which often perceive internal and external security as inherently separate domains, and various strands of critical theory that see such a distinction as irrelevant.9 Yet, as Johan Erikson and Mark Rhinhard argue, a pragmatic approach is critical as “not all security problems or governmental responses to them have a transboundary reach, but some do, and there is a complex pattern of problems and responses which partially implies a nexus or a divide between the external and internal domains of security.”10 They suggest that we first, problematize whether or not a given security issue is transnational in nature, and second, distinguish between “transnational security issues” that have “objective content” and “transnational security threats” that are “subjectively constructed.”11

“Transnational security issues” in this context are understood as an outgrowth of the forces unleashed by the collapse of the tight bipolar, and state-centric, international security environment of the Cold War era and by the “open-ended global flows” of information, capital, and people characteristic of globalization.12 These very broad forces have arguably stimulated a broad range of security-related issues that have been catalogued in the post-Cold War era as transcending the “internal-external” divide, such as international crime, terrorism, migration flows, disease and pandemics, global environmental degradation, and climate change. What links such variegated threats is the fact that “transnational security challenges do not have a crisis “focal point” where policymakers and leaders can direct their attention,”13 and are often driven by “sovereignty-free” actors (e.g. non-state terrorist groups) or phenomena (e.g. disease).14

The manner in which such forces may impact on the security of a particular state is dependent on such factors as its history, politics, social cohesion, and national power. Terrorism in the post-9/11 period has not only been depicted as the archetypical transnational security threat that no one state, no matter how wealthy and powerful, may hope to combat by its individual efforts alone, but also as the harbinger of a fundamentally new international order.15 For others the events of 9/11 were symptomatic of a pervasive “insecurity from below” that was undermining the Westphalian state’s capacity to provide security in the internal domain (“Weber’s ‘monopoly of legitimate violence’ in the domestic sphere”) and in the external domain (“the capacity for Clausewitz’s ‘pursuit of politics by other means’ in the international sphere”).16 Post-9/11 terrorisms’ capacity to subvert these functions of the Westphalian state contrasts to previous manifestations through its tendency to globalize violence in the service of often localized or regionalized causes, facilitated by modern communication and transportation systems that permit terrorist groups to operate across and between political boundaries.17 This places it in the same category as other archetypical transnational threats such as disease pandemics that “originate from opaque locations, cross political and functional boundaries with ease and can affect a wide variety of referent objects.”18

The Trans-Nationalization of Uyghur Terrorism

While Uyghur separatist aspirations in Xinjiang under the PRC have long been connected to external sources of support, particularly diaspora populations in Central Asia and Turkey,19 it was the collapse of the Soviet Union that provided major stimulus for trans-nationalization. Along with the simultaneous emergence of independent states in Central Asia and the return of ethnic conflict globally, this suggested a recrudescence of nationalism. China paid particular attention to the ethnic conflicts and the international interventions of the 1990s with an eye to their implications for its own ethnic conflicts in Xinjiang and Tibet.20

In the 1990s, the major fear of authorities in Xinjiang was that the independence of the Central Asian states and the ascent of various mujahideen factions in Afghanistan would stimulate a resurgence in Turkic nationalism or radical Islam in Xinjiang.21 The first of these fears was, to a degree, realized with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan emerging as major sites of largely non-violent Uyghur diaspora political and cultural activism.22 The likelihood of the second scenario (i.e. of radical Islamism taking root in Xinjiang) was underlined for Chinese authorities by a number of incidents in the early 1990s. The “Baren Incident” of April 1990, was particularly alarming, where a group of Uyghur men conducted an armed uprising against Chinese police and security forces in a small township near Kashgar with the aim of establishing an “East Turkestan Republic.” The authorities claimed that their leader, Zahideen Yusuf, had not only been the leader of an “Islamic Party of East Turkestan” that was bent on launching a jihad against Chinese rule but also that he had links to mujahideen groups in Afghanistan.23 Throughout the remainder of the 1990s, Xinjiang experienced sporadic episodes of violence that authorities blamed on the influence of “pan-Turkist” “splittists” with links to Turkey24 and on the infiltration of Islamist influences from Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.25

The 9/11 attacks irrevocably shifted Chinese perceptions regarding the locus of external threat vis-à-vis Xinjiang, as incidents of violence in Xinjiang were inevitably linked to “international terrorism.” Beijing’s first detailed document cataloguing “terrorist incidents” in, or connected to, Xinjiang published in January 2002 claimed that a heretofore unknown organization, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) based in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and “supported and funded” by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, had been responsible for many terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.26 In December 2003, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) also released its first list of officially designated terrorist organizations—ETIM, East Turkestan Liberation Organization (ETLO), World Uyghur Congress (WUC), and East Turkestan Information Center (ETIC)—each based outside of China amongst the Uyghur diaspora.27

For the rest of the decade Beijing repeated the charge of strong connections between terrorist incidents in Xinjiang and ETIM and what many see as its successor organization, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP). While the claim of al Qaeda’s direct support of ETIM has been widely disputed,28 the group appears from 1998 to the early 2000s to have had a presence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. With the US invasion of Afghanistan, however, the group shifted its base operations into the “Af-Pak” tribal areas. After its leader, Hasan Mahsum, was killed during a Pakistani military operation in South Waziristan in October 2003, TIP emerged as a successor organization in 2005, led by Abdul al Haq and aligned with al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and the Taliban.29 Addul al Haq was part of al Qaeda’s leadership committee and held in high regard by fighters in the region. At this stage TIP appeared to be a propaganda front for al Qaeda, releasing a number of slickly produced videos on YouTube,30 including an overt threat that it would target the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and a magazine, Islamic Turkestan, which was significantly published in Arabic and not Uyghur.31 As with ETIM, TIP’s operational capabilities remain unclear. Chinese authorities have, however, attributed terrorist attacks since 2011 either directly to TIP or to its influence, including the October 28, 2013 SUV attack in Tiananmen Square; the March 1, 2014 attack at Kunming railway station; and the September 18, 2015 attack on a coal mine near Aksu.32

The external locus of Uyghur militancy has gradually shifted from the “Af-Pak” region to the wider Middle East, particularly with the outbreak of the Syrian crisis and the rise of Islamic State (IS). As al Qaeda itself became active in Syria with the announcement of Jabhat al Nusra’s establishment as its affiliate in January 2012, TIP also began to release videos about the Syrian conflict and articles in its magazine.33 By 2015, TIP had a well-documented presence on the battlefield in Syria, with the group releasing a number of videos detailing its role in combat in Idlib, Jisr al-Shughur and the Al Ghab plain.34 Reflecting its “Af-Pak” connections with al Qaeda, it does not fight alongside IS. Jabhat al Nusra, TIP’s leadership, released statements in 2016 that condemned IS activities and proclaimed the “caliphate” as “illegitimate.”35

The number of TIP militants fighting in Syria would appear to be in the hundreds from viewing the group’s own propaganda on its exploits. These have included the posting of videos, often with Arabic and English subtitles, showcasing TIP operations (including suicide bombings), TIP’s significant role in the capturing of a Syrian government airbase in 2015, and the display of captured heavy weaponry. With respect to IS, Beijing has claimed in the past that there may be somewhere between 300 and 500 Uyghurs fighting for the “caliphate” in both Syria and Iraq.36 “Entry” and “exit data” for IS recruits analyzed by Nate Rosenblatt at the New America Foundation, however, identifies 114 Uyghurs as fighting with IS between 2013 and 2014.37 The data collected by IS on these Uyghurs suggest that there is “not a single fighter in the sample reported to have previously fought in a jihad, suggesting that the sample is not comprised of seasoned veterans of foreign wars, such as with Uyghur separatists in the al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP).”38

The apparent linkage of Uyghur militants not only to long-standing sanctuaries in the “Af-Pak” frontier region but also to the Syrian conflict, points to an unprecedented trans-nationalization of Uyghur terrorism. While the number would appear to be small, the danger for Beijing is twofold: 1) some may either return to Xinjiang or attempt to recruit others; and 2) Uyghur militants, aided by other jihadists, will target Chinese interests abroad. Two recent incidents appear to fit the second scenario. First, on August 30, 2016 a suicide bomber drove a van packed with explosives into the Chinese embassy in Bishkek. Kyrgyz media reported that the suicide bomber was a Uyghur and “a member of the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement” (ETIM), who “had a passport registered in the name of a Tajik citizen.” An ethnic Uzbek, who had undergone “terrorist training” in Syria was suspected by Kyrgyz authorities of having assisted in making the explosive device and procuring the vehicle used in the attack before leaving the country on an Istanbul-bound flight just hours before the attack.39 Second, the gunman in the Istanbul nightclub attack on New Year’s Eve 2016 who was arrested by Turkish police has been reported to be a Uyghur with links to jihadist groups in Syria.40

Domestic and Foreign Policy Dimensions of the Trans-Nationalization of Uyghur Terrorism

What have been the drivers of this trans-nationalization of Uyghur terrorism? And what has been its effect on Chinese governance in Xinjiang and handling of the “Uyghur issue” in its foreign relations? Philip Cerny observed that states in combating “insecurity from below” such as terrorism can “create severe backlashes at both local and transnational levels,” which may “interact with economic and social processes of complex globalisation to create overlapping and competing cross-border networks of power, shifting loyalties and identities, and new sources of endemic low-level conflict.”41 Moreover, the manner in which such forces may impact the security of a state is dependent on such factors as its history, politics, social cohesion, and national power.42 This is the case in Xinjiang, where Beijing’s response to Uyghur terrorism has been conditioned by the history of the Uyghur separatist sentiment and its connections beyond Xinjiang’s borders. Uyghur terrorism has become moretransnational in nature due to the convergence of factors including: the collapse of the Soviet Union; the rise of radical Islamism in Central and South Asia (especially Afghanistan); the events of 9/11; the nature of Chinese governance in Xinjiang; and China’s increased openness to and integration with the global political and economic order. These factors have contributed to what a number of scholars have variously described as Uyghur “long distance nationalism,” “virtual transnationalism,” or “cyber-separatism.”43 These phenomena have been generated by the “pull” factors of globalization and the “push” factors stemming from the (perceived) declining political and economic opportunities for the Uyghur population within Xinjiang itself. Both violent Uyghur militant groups and non-violent Uyghur diaspora advocacy organisations have, in different ways, harnessed the dynamics of globalization consistent with Fiona Adamson’s notion of “transnational political mobilisation networks” that “attempt to market their political cause abroad, engaging in framing activities that will link their local political concerns with existing discourses that can bring them both political and material support.”44 Linking these violent and non-violent groups is their desire to “bypass” the “blocked” institutions of the Chinese state to pursue their political cause.45

Domestic Policy Dimensions

Chinese policy in Xinjiang since 1949 has been focused on achieving the territorial, political, economic, and cultural integration of Xinjiang and its non-Han ethnic groups into the Chinese state.46 Concerns were not resolved with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Rather, the focus shifted from state-based threats to largely non-state ones driven by the convergence of the Islamic revival in neighboring Central Asia and Afghanistan and relative weakness of the post-Soviet states and compounded by the internal trajectory of Chinese governance in the region. Since the “reform and opening” under Deng Xiaoping, the core assumption of Chinese policy has been that the delivery of modernization will ultimately “buy” the loyalty of such ethnic groups as the Uyghur. Xinjiang’s economic development assumed national importance under the Great Western Development campaign, formally launched by President Jiang Zemin in 2000. The region was envisaged as becoming an industrial and agricultural base and a trade and energy corridor for the national economy.47 The campaign’s operation reflected the intensification of longstanding state-building policies, but the goal of transforming Xinjiang into a trade and energy corridor could only be achieved with the development of greater cooperation with the Central Asian states. This imperative has been reinforced under Xi’s leadership with the deepening of Sino-Central Asian economic cooperation central to the building of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” component of OBOR.48

Central to the developmental agenda within Xinjiang has been a focus on “mega-projects” such as massive oil and natural-gas pipelines and infrastructure developments linking Xinjiang with Central and South Asia.49 While undoubtedly bringing economic development, such projects have also created new socioeconomic pressures (e.g. encouraged further Han Chinese settlement), complicating Uyghur relations with the state.50 While Xinjiang’s GDP growth rate has surpassed the national average since 2003, many Uyghurs feel they have not benefitted from it due to factors including: the concentration of Xinjiang’s urban centers and industry in the north of the province; the large infrastructure projects in which companies have tended to employ Han Chinese; and rural-urban disparities (rural population is overwhelmingly Uyghur).51

The authorities have also implemented yearly “Strike Hard” campaigns against those defined as “terrorists and extremists.” Since the late 1980s control over Uyghur religious expression has amounted to what Remi Castets has termed the “juridicization of religious activities,” whereby the state has much more systematically regulated religious practice.52 Not only have the authorities’ promulgated clear regulations for the monitoring and education of imams and religious institutions but also propagated guidelines for the identification of potential “deviant” behavior amongst believers, bolstered by regular campaigns against religious education, “illegal” mosque construction, mosque attendance by persons under eighteen years of age, and the “patriotic re-education” of religious leaders.53

With the increased number of attacks in or connected to Xinjiang since 2012 the state has intensified its implementation of restrictions on religious dress with some localities in Xinjiang banning burqas, niqabs or hijabs, Islamic symbols such as “crescent and stars,” and even “long beards” on public transport in some cities.54 In December 2014, some county-level authorities in Xinjiang had begun disseminating a brochure that identified seventy-five forms of “religious extremism,” including referring to local officials or party members as “heretics,” placing pressure on others to stop smoking or drinking alcohol, and the “boycotting of normal commercial activities as ‘not halal.’”55 The systematization of state regulation and control over the practice of religion in the region has been “designed to prevent Islam from occupying the social field outside of the circle of mosques and homes.”56

Heightened elements of ethnic identity (such as Islamic consciousness) and economic under-development are judged to be at the root of Uyghur opposition and violence (including terrorism). This contributed to a discourse that linked perceived overcoming aspects of ethnic identity—including profession of Islam—to accelerating the region’s economic development.57 Regional authorities have now renewed efforts to combat Islamic veiling and head-coverings. While “Minority and Han cultures have long been at odds in modern China with the former symbolizing ‘backwardness’ and ‘tradition’, and the latter ‘modernity’ and ‘progress’ in China’s civilizing project”, this “sartorial engineering campaign” is emblematic of the extent of the securitization of core elements of Uyghur identity.58 The authorities have increasingly framed particular forms of veiling as not only expressions of “religious extremism and cultural backwardness” but also as a “pernicious” outcome of “foreign” (i.e. Middle Eastern) influences. “In the current environment,” Leibold and Grose argue, “issues once deemed purely ethnic, cultural or even personal are being reinterpreted as overtly political and ideological acts that warrant closer Party scrutiny and intervention.” They note a USD 8 million, five-year, “Project Beauty” campaign (begun in 2011) that aimed to “counter ‘this regressive fad’ [i.e. veiling] and promote a ‘modern lifestyle.’”59

Such campaigns are, arguably, counter-productive as “many Uyghur women now view head-covering as part of a modern and global Islamic public, rather than anything particularly ‘traditional’ or ‘backward’, let alone unique to Uyghur culture.”60 Leibold and Grose conclude that “local authorities have adopted a far heavier hand” in prosecuting such campaigns and have targeted “‘outward manifestation’ of religious extremism, equating certain types of veiling with extremist thoughts and activities. Attempts to maintain security and stability now entail blatant ethnic profiling and maladroit policing tactics that are fuelling a dangerous cycle of ethnic and religious bloodshed.”61

Concerns about terrorism in Xinjiang and potential links to conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan played a major role in China’s first counter-terrorism legislation on December 27, 2015. The law provides legal basis for various counter-terrorism organs, including in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police (PAP), to identify and suppress individuals or groups deemed to be “terrorists” and requires internet providers and technology companies to provide technical assistance and information, including encryption keys, during counter-terror operations. There is a provision by which the PLA or PAP may seek approval from the Central Military Commission (CMC) to engage in counter-terrorism operations abroad.62 Key elements of this evolving counterterrorism strategy, as embodied in the new legislation with its emphasis on a nation-wide, inter-government coordination of counterterrorism operations and expanded electronic surveillance, (including monitoring of cell phones and internet “firewalls”), have been implemented in Xinjiang for some time.

Recent reports that authorities have required residents in localities throughout Xinjiang to hand in their passports for “annual review” by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) should, thus, not be seen as a surprise.63 Rather, this is part of an increasingly restrictive set of policies in a concerted counterterrorism effort based not solely on outright repression of overt opposition to Chinese rule but also on comprehensive “everyday” surveillance.64 Such surveillance spans high to low-technology methods. High-technology methods have ranged from the bio-data samples for passports to the installation of China’s “Skynet” electronic surveillance system in major urban areas, providing police and security forces with “high-definition video surveillance cameras on public buses and at bus stops; on roads and in alleys; in markets and shopping centers; and in schools.”65 Low-tech measures have included the “double-linked household management system,” where households in towns and villages are “divided into groups of ten to watch over each other for security and poverty alleviation.” Policing has also been significantly increased in recent years with authorities establishing in major cities, such as the capital Urumqi, “convenience police stations”—essentially mobile police stations—and increasing patrols of ethnically Uyghur neighborhoods.66

Foreign Policy Dimensions

The perception of Uyghur opposition to Chinese rule as inspired and supported by external sources was marked, during the Cold War by excoriating the largely secular Uyghur nationalists (or “pan-Turkish”) exiles based in Turkey and the Soviet Central Asian republics for fomenting unrest in Xinjiang and, after the events of 9/11, with Beijing appropriating the lexicon of the “war on terror” to label the Uyghur opposition as “religious extremism” linked to the influence of regional and transnational jihadist organizations such as al Qaeda in order to generate diplomatic capital for the ongoing repression of Uyghur autonomist aspirations.67

The “double opening” strategy resulted in Uyghur communities in the now-independent Central Asian republics re-establishing links with the Uyghurs of Xinjiang. Most concerning for Beijing was the emergence of Uyghur advocacy organizations in the Central Asian republics, particularly Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. These two factors combined with a third—concern to resolve border disputes left over from Sino-Soviet acrimony—to spur China to rapidly establish relationships with the Central Asian states. All three interests—economic ties, separatism, and border demarcation—were explicitly raised by Premier Li Peng on his diplomatic tour of Central Asian capitals in April 1994. They were central to the establishment in 1996 of the multilateral talks among China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, thereafter called the “Shanghai Five” (S-5).68

The inclusion and ongoing importance of “separatism” within the multilateral framework of the S-5 reflected solely Chinese interests, as none of its partners face serious separatist challenges. From 1996 to 2000, China succeeded through the S-5 process and its increasingly close bilateral relations with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to neutralize Uyghur advocacy organizations in Central Asia. The 1998 S-5 joint statement stated that the member states would not, “allow their territories to be used for the activities undermining the national sovereignty, security and social order of any of the five countries.” Over the next two years, regional developments, including the consolidation of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the intensification of the insurgency of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the Ferghana Valley, assisted China in its ability to persuade its S-5 partners to take a stronger stance on what it increasingly termed the “three evils” of “separatism, extremism, and terrorism.”69

These issues became a foundational concern for the SCO, when it was inaugurated on June 14, 2001 in Shanghai, as seen in the Shanghai Covenant on the Suppression of Terrorism, Separatism and Religious Extremism, declaring the organization’s intent to establish a regional response to the perceived threat of radical Islam.70 As one observer put it:

Agreement on “the three evils” indicated that the member states were ready to move beyond the initial phase of merely removing obstacles to peaceful co-existence and to work instead to develop new areas of co-operation (or, to put it differently, to move from negative to positive security co-operation).71

Despite this, the impact of 9/11 on its foreign policy in Central Asia was contradictory for Beijing. On the one hand, the “tilt” of the majority of Central Asian states toward the United States after the invasion of Afghanistan undermined China’s diplomatic gains, particularly the SCO. For example, in 2001 and 2002 all of these states except Turkmenistan signed military-cooperation and base-access agreements with the United States, and received significant economic-aid packages.72 Since that time, however, Beijing has been able to reassert its role in the region both bilaterally and multilaterally through the SCO, promoting a normative framework for interstate relations via the SCO, which privileges the maintenance of “stability” and non-interference in the “internal affairs” of member states.73 This has been reflected in the SCO’s “Regional Anti-Terrorism” center in Tashkent, the SCO’s joint annual military exercises since 2003, and the organization’s response to the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the Andijan Incident in Uzbekistan in March and May 2005, respectively. China’s success in embedding the normative values of “stability” and “non-interference” within the SCO was illustrated by Russia’s failure to get the SCO’s unconditional support for its incursion into Georgia at the August 2008 summit in Dushanbe.74

The SCO also established the Regional Anti-Terrorism center (RATs) in Tashkent in 2004, to stifle Uyghur opposition in Central Asia. RATs, according to Zhao Huasheng:

…conducts routine work related to anti-terrorist activities, such as giving advice and proposals on combating the ‘‘three forces’’; gathering, analyzing, and sharing among member states relevant information; creating a data bank of terrorist organizations and personnel; organizing seminars on the topic of anti-terrorism; providing help in training experts; and maintaining contacts with other international security organizations, among other responsibilities.75

Other SCO related initiatives in this context have included:

  • July 2005: SCO governments formally pledged not to extend asylum to any individual designated as a terrorist or extremist by a SCO member.
  • March 2008: The RATS Council approved agreements to combat weapons smuggling and train the counterterrorist personnel of the member states.
  • 2009: The RATS adopted a draft action plan to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism during the 2010-2012 period.
  • June 16, 2009: At a summit in Yekaterinburg, the SCO heads of state signed a Counter-Terrorism Convention that established a more comprehensive legal foundation for greater cooperation among SCO governments.76


The SCO, in Zhao Huasheng’s words, “expands the fight against ‘East Turkistan’ from China to the SCO itself, particularly, the Central Asian member states directly bordering Xinjiang.”77 Such processes are also emblematic of China’s (and its SCO partners’) development of a “shared a discourse about trans-regional security threats” (e.g. the “three evils”), fostering “statist multilateralism.” By framing their responses to such “threats” as the prioritization of “sovereignty, the protection of state borders and regime security,” SCO member states can “cooperate on issues of ‘high politics’ while safeguarding (and legitimising) their specific political institutions, (state-sponsored) domestic identities and interests.”78 This process, Kilic Bugra Kanat argues, is in effect “a campaign of ‘linkage politics’” for the Uyghur issue in China’s foreign policy whereby:

China developed a repressive model for Central Asian countries where Uyghur movements were based. This necessitated the export of policies implemented against Uyghur dissidents in XUAR to other countries; but it was possible only through more aggressive and preventive diplomatic traffic between the Chinese government and the regional governments.79

The issue of Uyghur terrorism over the past decade has also become more prominent in China’s diplomacy beyond the Central Asian states. Beijing has sought to extend the strategy to Afghanistan. After standing aloof from the conflict in the country for most of the 2000s, China sought to intensify its engagement with the Kabul government as the drawdown and ultimate withdrawal of US and NATO forces loomed closer. In 2012, it assisted Kabul in securing observer status in the SCO and concluded a “bilateral partnership” agreement.80 “Security czar” Zhou Yongkang then made an unprecedented official visit to the Afghan capital in September 2012. Zhou’s responsibilities primarily concerned domestic security, suggesting that China was seeking greater security and counter-terror cooperation in order to insulate Xinjiang after the US withdrawal.81

The upswing in the number of violent incidents in Xinjiang, as Andrew Small has documented, encouraged Beijing to reconsider what he terms the partial “outsourcing” of its security to the US and NATO military presence in Afghanistan and the Pakistani military. China has attempted to insulate Xinjiang from the influence of Uyghur militants along the Af-Pak frontier via increased security cooperation with Islamabad and the provision of arms and training to Afghan security forces. China has attempted to leverage its deep ties with Islamabad to deter Uyghur militants from striking Chinese interests in Pakistan or Xinjiang itself.82 However its increasing engagement with the Kabul government and attempts to broker a political settlement between Kabul and the Taliban—including facilitating secret negotiations between the two—suggest that it may be beginning to perceive that the interests of its “all weather friend” in fact run counter to its own in the context of Afghanistan.83

Increasing Uyghur trans-migration has resulted in the “Uyghur issue” becoming felt in non-traditional regional settings. Cases of significant Uyghur trans-migration through Southeast Asia since 2009 have complicated relations with states in the region. In 2013 and 2014, Uyghurs were detained by authorities in transit countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. These governments claimed that detainees had been travelling on either forged Turkish passports or claimed Turkish citizenship.84 This issue achieved prominence in the aftermath of the bombing of the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok on August 18, 2015, which some speculated was perpetrated by Uyghurs in retaliation for the deportation to China of 109 Uyghurs discovered by Thai authorities in a people-smuggler run camp in southern Thailand.85

The Sino-Turkish relationship appears to be the most troubled by the Uyghur terrorism issue. Turkey’s long-standing sympathy for the cause of Uyghurs has combined since 2011 with the geopolitical dynamics of the Syrian crisis to produce some troubling issues for Beijing, as seen in media reports that Turkey has supplied fake Turkish passports to IS and other jihadist groups to facilitate recruitment of militants.86 Chinese media have reported on cases of prospective Uyghur recruits being supplied with forged Turkish documents and directed to seek the assistance of Turkish embassies if apprehended in Southeast Asia.87 Chinese authorities have also reported uncovering a people smuggling ring comprised of 10 Turkish citizens and a number of Uyghurs in Shanghai in January 2015.88

This, in combination with the involvement of TIP in Syria, has prompted Beijing to begin to modify what has been a largely “hands off” approach to the Syrian crisis.89 On August 14, 2016, PLA Navy (PLAN) Rear Admiral Guan Youfei (director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Central Military Commission) visited Damascus, where he attended meetings with senior Syrian and Russian military officials, including Minister of Defense, Fahad Jassim al-Freij, to discuss increased military cooperation, including intelligence sharing.90 Guan’s visit, with its focus on improving “military-to-military” cooperation, suggested that Beijing was moving toward supporting Assad as the most viable option to effectively combat the growth of TIP, with Zhao Weiming noting that this “could be the first step for further cooperation.”91


Identification of a particular security issue as “trans-national” in nature, Erikson and Rhinhard have argued, can act as a “cognitive threat amplifier” for governments as “one is essentially admitting loss of governmental control, which in turn implies a threat to national security.”92 This effect has been accentuated in the context of China’s handling of Uyghur terrorism due to long-standing concerns about the implications of Uyghur identity and sensitivity about control over the region. Within Xinjiang the state’s concern regarding the consequences of Uyghur identity and underdevelopment has resulted in the coupling of increased state-led economic development programs (embodied in the OBOR strategy) with ongoing campaigns against aspects of Uyghur identity—such as religious observance and Islamic veiling—perceived to accentuate the distinctiveness of the Uyghur population.

Externally, the linkages between ETIM and TIP and jihadist groups in Afghanistan and now Syria, have played a central role in cementing Beijing’s agenda within the SCO and stimulating deeper bilateral security cooperation with a number of Central Asian states as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. The “statist multilateralism” that this has fostered has resulted in the SCO’s almost exclusive focus on regular joint military and counterterrorism exercises, judicial cooperation on the extradition of suspected “terrorists,” and information sharing. This agenda has also permeated Beijing’s efforts to grapple with Uyghur terrorism outside of the SCO process, e.g., its recent agreement with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan93 aiming to establish a “quadrilateral mechanism” to “coordinate with and support each other in a range of areas, including study and judgment of counter terrorism situation, intelligence sharing, anti-terrorist capability building, joint anti-terrorist training and personnel training.”94

A major problem for Beijing is that its responses to the trans-nationalization of Uyghur terrorism are both, arguably, counter-productive vis-à-vis the domestic governance of Xinjiang and potentially entangling it in complex crises or conflicts abroad. The 2015 counterterrorism law, with its provision for the PLA or PAP to conduct counterterrorism operations abroad, is one example of this entwinement as it holds the potential to embroil Beijing in a range of hotspots around the globe—many of which lie within regions astride the OBOR—and tarnish its much-touted principle of “non-intervention.”

1. Owen Lattimore, “Inner Asian Frontiers: Chinese and Russian Margins of Expansion,” Journal of Economic History 7, no. 1 (1947): 24-52.

2. Michael Clarke, Xinjiang and China’s Rise in Central Asia – A History, (London: Routledge, 2011), 105-109.

3. Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Peterson, “China’s Inadvertent Empire,” The National Interest (November/December 2012): 31-32.

4. Nicholas Becquelin, “Staged Development in Xinjiang,” The China Quarterly 178, no. 2 (2004): 358-378.

5. “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road,” National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, March 28, 2015, accessed May 19, 2015,

6. Hasan H. Karrar, “Merchants, Markets and the State: Informality, Transnationality and Spatial Imaginaries in the Revival of Central Eurasian Trade,” Critical Asian Studies 45, no. 3 (2013): 460.

7. Johan Erikson and Mark Rhinhard, “The Internal-External Security Nexus: Notes on an Emerging Research Agenda,” Cooperation and Conflict 44, no. 3 (2009): 243-267.

8. Matt MacDonald, “Constructivism,” in Security Studies: An Introduction, ed. Paul D. Williams (London: Routledge, 2008), 69; Ole Waever, “Securitization and Desecuritization,” in On Security, ed. Ronnie D. Lipschutz (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 46-86.

9. See Roland Paris, "Human Security: Paradigm Shift or Hot Air?”, International Security 26, no. 2 (2001): 87-102; and D. Lutterbeck, “Blurring the Dividing Line: The Convergence of Internal and External Security in Western Europe”, European Security 14 (2005): 231-253.

10. Erikson and Rhinhard, “The Internal-External Security Nexus,” 252.

11. Ibid.

12. Fiona Adamson, “Globalisation, Transnational Political Mobilisation and Networks of Violence,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 18, no. 1 (2005): 33.

13. Paul L. Smith, “Transnational Security Threats and State Survival: A Role for the Military?” Parameters 30, no. 3 (2000): 79.

14. James M. Rosenau, Along the Domestic-Foreign Frontier: Exploring Governance in a Turbulent World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); and Distant Proximities: Dynamics Beyond Globalization (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003).

15. For various interpretations of 9/11 as a point of rupture for international order see, Joseph Nye, “New Rome Meets the New Barbarians,” The Economist, March 21, 2002, accessed 30 June 2015,; Barry Buzan, "Will the ‘global war on terrorism’ be the new Cold War?" International Affairs 82, no. 6 (2006): 1101-1118; and Audrey Kurth Cronin, “Behind the Curve: Globalization and International Terrorism,” International Security 27, no. 3 (2002/03): 30-58.

16. Philip G. Cerny, “Neomedievalism, Civil War and the New Security Dilemma: Globalisation as Durable Disorder,” Civil Wars 1, no. 1 (1998): 36-64; and Philip G. Cerny, “Terrorism and the New Security Dilemma,” Naval War College Review (2002): 11-33.

17. For assessments of the defining characteristics of post-9/11 terrorism see for instance, David C. Rapoport, “The Four Waves of Rebel Terror and September 11,” Anthropoetics 8, no. 1 (2002),; Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (6th edition) (New York: Columbia University Press 2006), 63-80; J. A. Piazza, “Incubators of Terror: Do Failed and Failing States Promote Transnational Terrorism?” International Studies Quarterly 52, no. 3 (2008), 469–488; and Fawaz Gerges, “ISIS and the Third Wave of Jihadism,” Current History (December 2014), 339-343.

18. Erikson and Rhinhard, “The Internal-External Security Nexus,” 248.

19. For the role of the Uyghur issue in Sino-Soviet relations see Yitzhak Shicor, “Pawns in Central Asia’s Playground: Uyghurs between Moscow and Beijing,” East Asia 32, no. 1 (2015): 101-116; and Ablet Kamalov, “Uyghurs in the Central Asian Republics: Past and Present,” in China, Xinjiang and Central Asia: History, Transition and Crossborder Interaction into the 21st Century, ed. Michael Clarke and Colin Mackerras (London: Routledge, 2009), 117-121. For discussions of the Uyghur diaspora in Turkey see, Isik Kuscu, “The Origins of Uyghur Long-Distance Nationalism: The First Generation Uyghur Diaspora in Turkey,” OAKA 8, no. 16 (2013): 73-94; and Yitzhak Shicor, “Ethno-Diplomacy: The Uyghur Hitch in Sino-Turkey Relations,” Policy Studies, no. 53, (Honolulu: East-West Center, 2009).

20. Kilic Bugra Kanat, “The Securitization of the Uyghur Question and its Challenges,” Insight Turkey 18, no. 1 (2016): 195.

21. For a contemporary Chinese view see, Zhang Yumo, “Xinjiang jiefang yilai fandui minzu fenliezhuyi de douzheng ji lishi jingyanti” in Yang Faren, Fan Yisila zhuyi, fan Tujuezhuyi yanjiu (Urumqi: Xinjiang shehui kexue yuan, 1994), 331-363.

22. Gardner Bovingdon, The Uyghurs: Strangers in Their Own Land (NY: Columbia University Press, 2011), 141-144; and Kamalov, “Uyghurs in the Central Asian Republics,” 121-125.

23. Michael Clarke, “Xinjiang in the ‘Reform’ Era: The Political and Economic Dynamics of Dengist Integration,” Issues & Studies 43, no. 2 (2007): 50-54.

24. “Song Hanliang Blames ‘Separatists,’” AFP, April 25, 1990 in FBIS-CHI 90-080, April 25, 1990, 67; and “Turkish Press on Developments,” Istanbul Milliyet, April 21, 1990 in FBIS-CHI 90-080, April 25, 1990, 69-70. Song Hanliang was then Xinjiang’s CCP first secretary.

25. See Sean Roberts, “A ‘Land of Borderlands’: Implications of Xinjiang’s Transborder Interactions,” in Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland, ed. S. Frederick Starr (Armonk. NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004); and Ziad Haider, “Sino-Pakistan Relations and Xinjiang’s Uighurs: Politics, Trade and Islam along the Karakoram Highway,” Asian Survey 45, no. 4 (2005): 522-545.

26. “East Turkestan Terrorists Cannot Get Away with Impunity,” China Daily,

27. The WUC and ETIC, were, arguably, incorrectly identified by the MPS as terrorist organizations, with both akin to what Adamson and Keck and Sikkink would describe as “transnational mobilization” or “advocacy” networks. Both are NGOs based in Germany primarily engaged in publication of Xinjiang and Uyghur related news and publicizing the cause of greater autonomy.

28. Millward, “Violent Separatism in Xinjiang”; Michael Clarke, “China’s ‘War on Terror’ in Xinjiang: Human Security and the Causes of Violent Uighur Separatism,” Terrorism & Political Violence 20, no. 2 (2008): 271-301; and Sean Roberts, “Imaginary Terrorism: The Global War on Terror and the Uyghur Terrorist Threat,” PONARS Eurasia Working Paper, March 2015,

29. Andrew Small, The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics, (London: Hurst & Co., 2015), 145-150; Jacob Zenn, “Jihad in China? Marketing the Turkistan Islamic Party,” Terrorism Monitor 9, no. 11 (2011),[tt_news]=37662&no_cache=1#.U-g4e0hYO7A; Jacob Zenn, “Turkistan Islamic Party Increases its Media Profile,” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, February 5, 2014,



32. Murray Scott-Tanner (with James Bellacqua), China’s Response to Terrorism, (Washington, DC: CNA, March 2016), 31-32.

33. Jacob Zenn, “Jihad in China? Marketing the Turkistan Islamic Party”; and Jacob Zenn, “Turkistan Islamic Party Increases its Media Profile.”

34. “Turkistan Islamic Party in Sahl al Ghab,”; ‘Ṣawt al-Islām presents a new video message from Ḥizb al-Islāmī al-Turkistānī [Turkistan Islamic Party] in Bilād al-Shām: “Conquest of Jisr al-Shaghūr,” Jihadology, May 1, 2015,ṣawt-al-islam-presents-a-new-video-message-from-ḥizb-al-islami-al-turkistani-turkistan-islamic-party-in-bilad-al-sham-conquest-of-jisr-al-shaghur/; and Caleb Weiss, “Turkistan Islamic Party Shows Fighters on the Frontlines in Northwestern Syria,” The Long War Journal, October 14, 2015,

35. Thomas Jocelyn and Bill Roggio, “Turkistan Islamic Party leader criticizes the Islamic State’s ‘illegitimate’ caliphate,” Long War Journal, June 11, 2016,

36. Qiu Yongzheng, “Turkey’s ambiguous policies help terrorists join IS jihadist group: analyst”, Global Times, December 15, 2014,

37. Nate Rosenblatt, All Jihad is Local: What ISIS’ Files Tell Us about Its Fighters, (Washington DC: New America Foundation, July 2016), 26.

38. Ibid.

39. “China Embassy attack: Suspect is 21yo Tajikistan national,” AKIpress, September 6, 2016,

40. Daren Butler and Tulay Karadeniz, “Turkey says Istanbul nightclub attacker probably Uighur,” Reuters, January 5, 2017,

41. Cerny, “Neomedievalism, Civil War and the New Security Dilemma,” 40.

42. Erikson and Rhinhard, “The Internal-External Security Nexus.”

43. Dru C. Gladney, Dislocating China: Muslims, Minorities and Other Subaltern Subjects (London: Hurst 2004), 238-257; and Yitzhak Shichor, “Virtual Transnationalism: Uyghur Communities in Europe and the Quest for Eastern Turkestan Independence,” in Muslim Networks and Transnational Communities in and across Europe, ed. Allievi Stefano and Jargen S. Nielsen (Leiden: Brill, 2003).

44. Adamson, “Globalisation, Transnational Political Mobilisation and Networks of Violence,” 37.

45. Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink describe this as a “boomerang pattern.” See Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press 1998).

46. Michael Clarke, “The Problematic Progress of ‘Integration’ in the Chinese State’s Approach to Xinjiang, 1759-2005,” Asian Ethnicity 9, no. 3 (2007): 261-289.

47. Nicolas Becquelin, “Staged Development in Xinjiang,” The China Quarterly 178 (June 2004), 358-378.

48. “Xi Suggests China, CA Build Silk Road Economic Belt,” Xinhua, September 7, 2013,

49. Becquelin, “Staged Development in Xinjiang”; Matthew D. Moneyhan, “China’s Great Western Development Project in Xinjiang: Economic Palliative or Political Trojan Horse?” Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 31, no. 3 (2002/2003): 491–519; Elena Barabantseva, “Development as Localization: Ethnic Minorities in China’s Official Discourse on the Western Development Project,” Critical Asian Studies 41, no. 2 (2009): 225-254; and Carla Freeman, “From ‘Blood Transfusion’ to ‘Harmonious Development’: The Political Economy of Fiscal Allocations to China’s Ethnic Regions,” Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 4 (2012): 11-44.

50. For example, the “renovation” of much of the old city of Kashgar through the USD 500 million “Kashgar Dangerous House Reform” program has displaced thousands of Uyghur residents and brought an influx of Han migrants, contributing to perceptions among Uyghurs of demographic dilution and economic disenfranchisement. See Ildiko Beller-Hann, “The Bulldozer State: Chinese Socialist Development in Xinjiang,” in Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia: Performing Politics, ed. Madeleine Reeves, Johan Rasanayagan, and Judith Beyer (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2014), 173-197.

51. Debasish Chaudhuri, “Minority Economy in Xinjiang – A Source of Uyghur Resentment,” China Report 46, no. 1 (2010): 9-27; Sean Roberts and Kilic Bugra Canat, “China’s Wild West: A Cautionary Tale of Ethnic Conflict and Development,” The Diplomat, July 15, 2013,; and Yan Sun, “The Roots of China’s Ethnic Conflicts,” Current History (September 2014), 233-234.

52. Remi Castets, “The Modern Chinese State and Strategies of Control over Uyghur Islam,” Central Asian Affairs 2, no. 1 (2015): 235-236.

53. Ibid, 235-238.

54. Se “Xinjiang: Restrictions on Religion May Lead to Radicalization,” Deutsche Welle, August 8, 2014,; and “Ban on Public Buses Targets Muslims in Xinjiang,” The National, August 7, 2014,

55. Cao Siqi, “Xinjiang Counties Identify 75 Forms of Religious Extremism,” Global Times, December 25, 2014,

56. Castets, “The Modern Chinese State,” 238.

57. See James Leibold, “Ethnic Policy in China: Is Reform Inevitable?” Policy Studies, no. 68, (Washington, DC: East-West Center, 2013), 14–21; Barry Sautman, “Scaling Back Minority Rights? The Debate About China’s Ethnic Policies,” Stanford Journal of International Law 46 (2010): 51-120; and David Tobin, “Worrying About Ethnicity: A New Generation of China Dreams?” in China’s Many Dreams: Comparative Perspectives on China’s Search for National Rejuvenation, ed. David Kerr (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014).

58. James Leibold and Timothy Grose, “Islamic Veiling in Xinjiang: The Political and Societal Struggle to Define Uyghur Female Adornment,” The China Journal 76 (May 2016): 80-88.

59. Ibid, 88-90. For the tone of this campaign see, “Xinjiang nüxing ‘liangli gongcheng’ yu xiandai wenhua,” Tianshan Net, May 9, 2012,

60. Leibold and Grose, “Islamic Veiling in Xinjiang,” 88-90.

61. Ibid, 93.

62. See Zunyou Zhou, “China’s Draft Counter-Terrorism Law,” China Brief 15, no. 14 (2015),; and Zunyou Zhou, "China’s Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Law,” The Diplomat, January 23, 2016,

63. Chieu Luu and Nanlin Fang, “China orders Xinjiang residents to surrender passports to police,” CNN, November 25, 2016,

64. “China: Passports Arbitrarily Recalled in Xinjiang,” Human Rights Watch, November 21, 2016,

65. Julia Famularo, “How Xinjiang Has Transformed China’s Counterterrorism Policies,” The National Interest, August 26, 2015,

66. Nectar Gan, “Passports taken, more police … new party boss Chen Quanguo acts to tame Xinjiang with methods used in Tibet,” South China Morning Post, December 12, 2016,

67. James Millward, “China’s Two Problems with the Uyghurs,” Los Angeles Review of Books, May 28, 2014,

68. Keith Martin, “China and Central Asia: Between Seduction and Suspicion,” RFE/RL Research Report 3, no. 25 (June 24, 1994): 30-32.

69. “‘Shanghai Five’ Nations Sign Joint Statement,” People’s Daily, July 6, On the rise of radical Islamism in Central Asia, see Ahmed Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).

70. Marc Lanteigne, “In Media Res: The Development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a Security Community,” Pacific Affairs 79, no. 4 (2005/2006): 616.

71. Flemming Splidsboel Hansen, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” Asian Affairs 39, no. 2 (2008): 220.

72. Boris Rumer, “The Powers in Central Asia,” Survival 44, no. 3 (2002): 59-60.

73. Thomas Ambrosio, “Catching the ‘Shanghai Spirit’: How the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Promotes Authoritarian Norms in Central Asia,” Europe-Asia Studies 60, no. 8 (2008): 1321-1344.

74. S. Farizova, “Allies Let Him Down,” Kommersant, August 29, 2008; and Stephen Blank, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Georgian Crisis,” China Brief 8, no. 17 (2008).

75. Zhao Huasheng, “China’s Views of and Expectations from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” Asian Survey 53, no. 3 (2014): 440.

76. Richard Weitz, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: A New Force in Asian Security?”, Korean Journal of Defense Analysis 23, no. 1 (2011): 133.

77. Zhao Huasheng, “China’s Views of and Expectations from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” 441.

78. Nicole J. Jackson, “Trans-Regional Security Organisations and Statist Multilateralism in Eurasia,” Europe-Asia Studies 66, no. 2 (2014): 185.

79. Kilic Bugra Kanat, “The Securitization of the Uyghur Question and Its Challenges,” Turkey Insight 18, no. 1 (2016): 200.

80. Andrew Small, The China-Pakistan Axis, 160.

81. Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Peterson, “Shifts in Beijing’s Afghan Policy: A View from the Ground”, China Brief 12, no. 21: 10–12,

82. Andrew Small, The China-Pakistan Axis, 155-161.

83. Mateen Hadeer, “China Ready to Support Kabul-Taliban Reconciliation,” Dawn, February
12, 2015,

84. See Zachary Abuza, Uyghurs look to Indonesia for terror guidance”, Asia Times, October 10, 2014,; and Zahara Tiba, “Uyghurs on Trial in Indonesia are Turkish Citizens, Lawyer Says,” Benar News, April 9, 2015,

85. Catherine Putz, “Thailand Deports 100 Uyghurs to China,” The Diplomat, July 11, 2015,

86. Metin Gurcan, “Oppressed by China, Uighurs drawn to Salafist ideals,” Al Monitor, January 19, 2015,

87. “China says Uighurs being sold as ‘cannon fodder’ for extremist groups,” Straits Times, July 11, 2015,

88. Edward Wong, “Turks Are Held in Plot to Help Uighurs Leave China,” The New York Times, January 14, 2015,; and Liu Chang, “Turks, Uyghurs held in smuggling, terrorism scheme,” Global Times, January 14, 2015,

89. See for instance, Michael D. Swaine, "Chinese Views of the Syrian Conflict,” China Leadership Monitor 39, no. 2 (2012): 1-26; and Yong Deng, "China: The Post-Responsible Power,” The Washington Quarterly 37, no. 4 (2014): 117-132.

90. “Chinese admiral visits Syria in show of support,” Al Arabiya, August 18, 2016,

91. Yang Sheng, “China boosts Syria support,” Global Times, August 18, 2016,

92. Erikson and Rhinhard, “The Internal-External Security Nexus.”

93. “China, Tajikistan vow to enhance anti-terrorism cooperation,” China Military Online, August 5, 2016,

94. Sutitho Patranobis, “China, Pakistan, Afghanistan sign counter-terrorism agreement,” Hindustan Times, August 5, 2016,

  • Godfree Roberts

    “What have been the drivers of this trans-nationalization of Uyghur terrorism?”
    Whisper it softly: American and American proxy money, equipment and training.