CHINA'S WAR ON TERRORISM: Counter-Insurgency, Politics and Internal Security

By Oluic, Steven | Military Review, July/August 2008 | Go to article overview

CHINA'S WAR ON TERRORISM: Counter-Insurgency, Politics and Internal Security


Oluic, Steven, Military Review


CHINA'S WAR ON TERRORISM: Counter-Insurgency, Politics and Internal Security, Martin I. Wayne, Routledge, New York, 2008, 196 pages, $125.00.

Martin Wayne delivers much more than the book's title implies. The work is well organized, meticulously documented, and succinct, providing a thorough background on China's challenges in Xinjiang, its westernmost province, and placing China's insurgencies in the context of today's global jihad and War on Terrorism. The book begins by viewing China's "bottom-up" approach to countering Xinjiang's Uyghur minority insurgency and follows with an outline of the insurgent/ terrorist groups in western China. Wayne also provides a detailed overview of Chinese counterinsurgency (COIN) from both theoretical and historical perspectives.

The book illuminates the genesis of Uyghur terrorism in the AfghanSoviet War of the 1980s and AlQaeda's rise to power. It discusses China's role in supplying Sovietstyle weaponry and, most importantly, mules to the mujahedeen efforts in Afghanistan, bringing to light an area unknown to many. Wayne is critical of Beijing's assertion that all terrorist activities are simply a phenomenon of radical and militant Islam, arguing that Uyghur terrorism is a unique and indigenous movement. He asserts the Uyghur insurgency is based on multiple reasons, not only radical Islam but separatism and Han Chinese oppression and exploitation of Xinjiang's natural resources.

Perhaps the most salient point of Wayne's treatise is his discussion of China's bottom-up approach to counter the insurgency in Xinjiang. He argues that China has been successful, whereas the American heavyhanded "top down" approach in Iraq, which favors military action, may be counterproductive. He discusses interrelated categories of targets pursued as part of a Chinese "society centric action" to COIN operations. These targets are (1) individuals, (2) organizations and groups, (3) insurgent organizations abroad, and (4) ideas and ideology detrimental to Chinese control and security.

Wayne questions official Chinese sources that raise the specter of AlQaeda and terrorism in connection with all Uyghur attempts to redress grievances. He questions whether China is witnessing a nascent rebellion with aims of secession and if Chinese repression is smothering legitimate dissent. The veracity of Chinese claims is hard to determine as all media is state-controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). …

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