For the past three years, People’s Republic of China has been working on planning for the First Class – Anti Terror Force in Beijing for protecting the country’s overseas interests while operating in domestic and foreign territories.
The idea was conceived after the attack by the ISIS in November 2015 on Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali where they killed 22 people including 3 Chinese people who were working for the State-Owned China Railway Construction Corporation.
In December, 2015 an Anti-Terror Force law was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that permitted the Chinese army and other armed forces to engage in terrorist missions abroad. The law doesn’t clearly specify the Chinese counter terrorism forces’ international role but it has been argued that this law has the potential to lead a dramatic change in the use of the Chinese military power overseas.
In an interview, Zhang Xiaoqi an intelligence chief at China’s Paramilitary People’s Military Armed Force, a part of the Chinese Military stated that –
“The mission scope of the Special Forces stretches from land to sea and adding to this he also states that ‘Anti-terror fight preparations’ must be ready to safeguard national strategic interests anywhere.”
Thus he ended his interview without any further details stating that –
“We must work hard to build an internationally first rate counter terror crack force.”
Since, the beginning of the American War on Terror, China has been criticised consistently by military community due to its reluctance to be a part of the coalition that fights terrorist forces in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
Two key concepts have underpinned China’s diplomatic posture on terrorism: “Double Standards” and “Tackling the Root Causes”.
“Double Standards” is coded term referring to Western criticism of China’s actions in Xinjiang, pointing to what matters most to Beijing is international endorsement for its own domestic counter-terrorism policies. This is relating to their overarching priority in terms of national security, compared to which overseas risks are clearly a secondary concern.
The reference to “Root Causes” indicates China’s preference for policies addressing factors that often encourage radicalisation, such as a lack of economic development and social justice.
Li Wei, Head of the Counter-Terrorism Research at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a State Run-Think Tank Stated that –
“Overseas operations would be conducted alongside local governments, it wouldn’t be unilateral but it must be in collaboration with the local government, unlike the US Military’s counter-terrorist activities.”
Adding to this he said that –
“China’s external counter-terrorism focus was not only on military operations but also intelligence sharing and judicial cooperation, especially in countries that are part of Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road infrastructure investment initiative.”
The government is yet to specify how any overseas military, counter-terror operation would work. The Anti-Terror force in the Middle East countries are confronted with the obstacles in the development and reforms of the country that includes the problem of social transformation and facilitation of institutional reforms, which gives a hiatus in maintaining the stability between the countries globally. Internally, the Middle East terrorism emerges from the alarming conflicts like historical, social, religious and ethnic conflicts whereas, externally, it hinges on interference, invasion, occupation, and the rival for territory, recourses and interest.
Hence, China’s anti-terror endeavour aims at protecting its overseas interest, which reflects China’s unique idea and aspiration of global governance.