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									               Five Lessons                                                                                            from
China’s                                                            War on Terror
 Kunjerab Front Defense Company patrols                                                 By m A r t i n i . W A y n e
 high country

                                                                                        ethnic minority group—the Uyghurs—and                                       republics, China would have reason enough to
                                                                                        cynically casting the campaign after 9/11 as                                worry about cross-border problems, yet it claims
                                                                                        part of the war on terror to gain political cover.                          that it too has suffered from the indigenous
                                                                                        China’s actions in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autono-                              phenomenon of what it terms “religious extrem-
                                                                                        mous Region are poorly explained by officials,                              ism, separatism, and terrorism.” Chinese sources
                                                                                        likely because the effectiveness of the campaign                            claim that over 160 people have been killed and
                                                                            PLA Daily

                                                                                        and its components is poorly understood by                                  440 injured in more than 200 attacks by forces

                                                                                        the leaders themselves. The actions in Xinjiang                             seeking to split the Alaska-sized Xinjiang region
             ince the end of the Soviet-Afghan                                          are governed by the party-state’s worst fears of                            from Chinese control.
             war, China has been fighting an                                            social unrest removing the final critical pillar                                   Xinjiang, literally “new frontier,” is techni-
             increasingly sophisticated cam-                                            upholding the regime: the Chinese people’s                                  cally an autonomous region for the Uyghurs,
             paign against violent extremists in                                        belief that the party-state, however ideologically                          a primarily Turkic Muslim ethnic group that
its northwestern Xinjiang region. China’s “war                                          bankrupt and locally corrupt, is still holding the                          comprised nearly the entire regional popula-
on terror” there has focused on preempting a                                            country together.                                                           tion when Mao and the Communists took over
nascent insurgency before it could militarily                                                  In countering Xinjiang’s insurgency, China                           China in 1949. Today the Uyghurs are officially
challenge the state. While China has kept its                                           acted early, forcefully, and comprehensively and                            a minority in their own autonomous region
counterinsurgency actions in Xinjiang secret                                            prevented a nascent insurgency from matur-                                  due to decades of Communist-led population
for fear of “internationalizing” the conflict,                                          ing. Chechnya and Kosovo are worst-case                                     movement of Chinese from the east.
Chinese leaders are now seeking to gain                                                 scenarios often invoked by Chinese sources,1                                       Xinjiang’s violence peaked in the late
international acceptance for their counterin-                                           yet Afghanistan and Iraq have now taken over                                1990s, with steady small-scale attacks against
surgency campaign as part of the larger war                                             as the unstated but ever-present comparison                                 officials accused of caprice and corruption
on terror.                                                                              when assessing the threat of insurgency. With                               at a level similar to the Basque experience.
      Critics accuse Beijing of needlessly and                                          borders on both Pakistani and Indian Kashmir,                               China’s changing use of force in Xinjiang traced
brutally repressing a predominantly Muslim                                              Pakistan, Afghanistan, and several Central Asian                            through major incidents of unrest is presented

 Figure 1. China’s Changing Use of Force in Xinjiang, 1990–2007
                   1990                     UAR
                                                            BE        1995                                                                                                      2001
                         L                                                                                                                                                               1
                      RI                 BR          PT                   LY                                                                                                           /1
                    AP                 FE          SE                  JU                                          1996                           1997                            st
                                                                                                                                                                                    -9                2005               2007

 The PLA directly fought against 200            After local officials in Hotan repeatedly      Bombings and assassination attempts rocked                An estimated 100,000 soldiers moved into
 insurgents. Using barbed wire, machine-        removed imams, a crowd massed at a             Xinjiang. While the party turned to the paramilitary      Xinjiang, massing primarily near the southern
 guns, and snipers, military forces             local government compound to demand            Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC)         borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan to kill        Chinese sources reported
 reportedly took control of sections of         to know the location and condition of          to create stability, local police were the primary        or capture fighters fleeing the Afghan battle-       a PAP raid on a mine being
 Kashgar, Xinjiang’s southwestern cultural      the most recently arrested imam. “Riot         mechanism for stability and consequently the              field in order to keep Uyghurs in Xinjiang from      used as a training camp.
 capital. The PLA engaged insurgents as         police,” likely PAP, surrounded the            primary targets of violence. Backed by an estimated       rising up and to show force to America newly         17 insurgents were killed
 they fled into surrounding mountains,          compound and reportedly deployed tear          10,000 “troops,” likely PAP, local police arrested 300    operating on China’s doorstep. Spies and             and 18 captured. 1 PAP
 and police swept through southern              gas and beat the crowd until it dispersed.     people accused of being separatists or separatist         informants reportedly penetrated an increasing       official was killed. Impro-
 Xinjiang. As many as 3,000 Uyghurs             .                                              sympathizers. XPCC units were used to guard               number of institutions in society, including         vised explosive devices
 may have been killed.                                                                         communications lines against repeated sabotage.           greater surveillance of religious gatherings.        were seized. The camp
                                                                                               The Public Security Bureau personnel organized                                                                 was identified through tips
                                                                                               “comprehensive management,” including the                                                                      provided by locals.
        In response to a string of bombings, police reportedly arrested five                   mobilization of residents street committees—a tactic
        Uyghur men. The details of this investigation are unknown. PLA troops                  that forms neighbors into self-watching organizations.
        were positioned at bus and rail stations to guard against attack, and                  One resident is made neighborhood boss, though all
        PLA presence within cities was likely increased.                                       are responsible for group-member’s actions.                                                   Xinjiang’s major cities were flooded by PAP
                                                                                                                                                                                             and local police patrols in preparation for
                                                                                                                                                                                             Xinjiang’s 50th anniversary of official “autonomy.”
                                                                                                                         Arrests of religious students and rumors of executions spiraled     When confronted with crowds, these troops were
                                                                                                                         into violent protests in Yining, which may have been primarily      highly disciplined and restrained. While political
                                                                                                                         perpetrated by security forces upon protestors. The numbers         leaders made grand statements about looming
                                                   In Yining, an Islamic group had organized a series of traditional     of protestors are disputed. Following the uprising, security
                                                   Uyghur cultural events in addition to a soccer league. Local                                                                              terrorist attacks, none materialized.
                                                                                                                         forces swept through neighborhoods looking for suspects and
            XINJIANG UYGUR                         officials declared the soccer fields would be used for military       pressuring residents not to discuss the events. Rioting and
              Autonomous Region                    exercises. When protest arose, paramilitary squads began              bombings erupted elsewhere. Guerrilla groups were reportedly
                                                   patrolling the streets, blocking key intersections with barbed        training in northern Xinjiang. Martial law was declared, curfews
                                                   wire and installing snipers atop roofs. Party members distributed     imposed, and a PLA rapid response unit was deployed. Political
                                                   emergency phone numbers for security forces to locals, likely         leaders in Xinjiang announced purges of officials and social
                                                   accompanied by other advice and propaganda.                           leaders. New “loyal” cadres of all ethnicities were brought in,
                                                                                                                         and renewed emphasis was given to local policing, including
                                                                                                                         opening or improving stations in localities far removed from
                                                   People’s Republic of China                                            major cities.

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in figure 1. Today, because China not only                of more radiating out from eastern China                 whereby the Han should leave Xinjiang to its
employed a mix of security forces but also                into the west and from the big cities into the           “rightful Uyghur owners”; freedom for reli-
engaged in broad political action, society in             countryside.                                             gious practice beyond that sanctioned by the
Xinjiang increasingly if begrudgingly is turning                Counterinsurgency requires turning                 state as not politically threatening; the hope of
away from insurgency as the path forward.                 societies against the idea that violence can             self-determination and perhaps even democ-
       From studying the campaign in Xinjiang,            achieve political goals. Before analyzing the            racy; the goal of Central Asia’s “colored” revo-
including strategy, tactics, and tools, U.S.              strategy, tactics, and tools that China employed         lutions of the mid 2000s and a hope harbored
military decisionmakers can learn five lessons            to varying effect against the insurgents and the         in Xinjiang throughout the previous decade;
about the nature of China today and about                 ideas of insurgency, let us first set the stage by       the search for human rights denied by a repres-
crafting more effective counterinsurgency                 assessing the threat, both potential and actual,         sive and brutal regime; and, in some cases, the
policies.                                                 of insurgency in Xinjiang.                               desire to use religious identity as a direct chal-
                                                                                                                   lenge to state power. With so many grievances
     n The response targeted indigenous                                                                            espoused, searching for one all-encompassing
support for a nascent insurgency with links
                                                                while leaders worked to                            explanation may be fruitless. As counterin-
to the global jihad. While leaders worked to                   diminish external support                           surgency scholar David Kilcullen argues, con-
diminish external support for the insurgency,                      for the insurgency,                             temporary insurgencies are “complex conflict
they recognized that a counterinsurgency must                    they recognized that a                            ecosystems” in which multiple actors, groups,
primarily be locally focused to be effective.                   counterinsurgency must                             and ideologies independently pursue their own
     n The government acted early, forcefully,                                                                     agendas without necessarily having a formal or
                                                              primarily be locally focused
and comprehensively, employing a new mix of                                                                        unified organizational structure, or indeed any
security forces and political tools.                                                                               substantive operational coordination.2
     n China crafted a security meaningful                Targeting Indigenous Support                                    Insurgency in Xinjiang has been no
to society. Security forces progressively grew                   While leaders recognized the interna-             different from insurgency elsewhere in some
more effective against the insurgency as they             tional dimensions of Xinjiang’s insurgency, their        respects. While there were many purported
reduced brutality.                                        response focused primarily on the insurgency’s           reasons for resistance, perhaps the most impor-
     n The government countered the                       internal components. Since the Soviet-Afghan             tant driver of the conflict was state weakness.
insurgency from the bottom up, using deep                 war began in 1979, China has been effectively            The greatest threat for China came as its state
knowledge of local society. Employing society-            confronting an indigenous insurgency with                institutions were found incapable of responding
centric warfare turned the groupings in society           links to the global jihad in its far northwestern        adequately. Because the security forces were the
against the insurgents and the idea of insur-             Xinjiang region. The government has used                 only institutions capable of moving effectively
gency itself.                                             political and military tactics, which together           within society, brutality was perceived to be the
     n China’s priority on stability engendered           turned society against the idea of violence              only option. Brutality is a recipe for alienating
an effective counterinsurgency in Xinjiang.               influencing politics. While political violence,          and inflaming society, resulting in strategic
Leadership took the threat seriously. Of neces-           including revolts, rebellions, and jihads, has           failure. Xinjiang’s governance, social, educa-
sity, the response to instability had to be not           rocked Xinjiang throughout history, the latest           tional, and religious institutions similarly were
only quick but also complete.                             unrest flowed directly from the lessons of the           deemed to be infiltrated with separatists. These
                                                          Soviet-Afghan war, which included the idea               key institutions were purged and filled with
       Some of these lessons might be uncom-              that men with the help of Allah and armed with           loyal cadres, an increasing number of which
fortable for decisionmakers because they often            AK–47s could defeat a superpower. If the Soviet          were and are Uyghurs.
contradict previous views. Nevertheless, this             occupiers were expelled from Afghanistan, the                   Xinjiang’s insurgency is not isolated from
article reflects the perspective of people across         struggle elsewhere must also be possible. State          developments beyond its borders; indeed, while
China today—especially those in Xinjiang.                 power no longer seemed so great, and commu-              the activities there are carried out by local actors
Simply put, the country is changing due to                nism had proven itself bankrupt at governing             based on local societal and political circumstances,
internal policies aimed at creating a modern              across China.                                            the region fits into the contemporary global
and powerful state. It is also changing inter-                   In eastern cities, dissent flowed out             jihad that has evolved at least since the Soviet-
nally because it is following the example set by          from the universities or up from families,               Afghan war. Explicitly, concerning Xinjiang’s
the United States and Europe, however slowly              neighborhoods, villages, and workforces                  place in the global jihad, the threat today is
and incompletely. While China’s political                 swindled by corrupt and capricious local officials.      diminished because of an increasingly effective
evolution appears glacial to outside observ-              In Xinjiang, dissent gained additional traction          counterinsurgency campaign.
ers, a key reason Xinjiang’s insurgency has               through the mosques and religious social groups.                Al Qaeda was once a group of individuals
been greatly reduced in scope and scale is the                   Causes espoused in Xinjiang are many:             joined by common beliefs and motivated to
positive pull-factor of relative freedom and              the search for autonomy promised but never               violently press their political views and multiply
increased living standards, with the promise              truly delivered; simple ethnic nationalism,              their power through instilling fear and awe.
                                                                                                                   Today it is the vanguard organization of like-
Dr. Martin I. Wayne was a China Security Fellow in the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National    minded groups and individuals internationally.3
Defense University. In 2005, Dr. Wayne conducted extensive fieldwork in Xinjiang. He is the author of China’s      Moreover, it has become an inspirational base
War on Terrorism: Counterinsurgency, Politics and Internal Security (Routledge, forthcoming).                      upon which a global jihad can rise. This social

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FORUM | Five Lessons from China’s War on Terror

movement is likely to shape life for the worse       different officials, this variation is more easily   Acting early, Forcefully, and
globally for at least a generation and probably      explained by “misstatement” than by deliber-         Comprehensively
more. Training in Afghanistan and Pakistan,          ate recalibration. To date, Western scholars                Raw brutality alone is not what has
at first against the Soviets and later in camps at   have been unable to account for the majority         prevented the insurgency from embroiling and
home and abroad, has provided tactical knowl-        of these figures using open-source reporting         dissolving China’s control of Xinjiang. Even
edge on weapons, intelligence, surveillance,         or fieldwork. The White Paper intended to            the most brutal force can achieve ephemeral
reconnaissance, and small group skills.              explain China’s terrorism problems and the           tactical victories, yet strategic effectiveness is
       Two types of training occurred in             government’s response did little to reduce the       ultimately achieved through political measures
Afghanistan’s camps, terrorist and insurgent.        arena’s obscurity for the rest of the world.         that deeply reshape society. Scholars looking
This tactical distinction divides the minor-                Beyond attack statistics, the potential       back through history’s long list of failed coun-
ity of fighters, who honed the skills to blend       for insurgency can be discerned through              terinsurgencies highlight the need for dealing
into societies either in their home country or       at least two other measures: the number of           with insurgencies before they take hold and
abroad and prepare methodically for spectacu-        fighters receiving training, and the support         before society perceives that the forces of order
lar attacks, from the vast majority, who trained     in society for insurgency as a viable path           might lose.8 China’s early efforts against the
to fight as warriors in irregular battles against    forward (or the only path, chosen by appro-          nascent insurgency in Xinjiang were military
security forces.                                     bation, fear, or both). China asserts that           affairs because no other forces existed which
       While formal connections to established       over 1,000 Chinese Uyghurs were trained in           were seen as capable of responding to the
terrorist organizations (al Qaeda foremost           Afghanistan’s camps in the 1990s. Addition-          threat.
among them) were important to the first              ally, East Turkestan Islamic Movement leader                As the insurgency progressed, China
generations of extremists, a rising generation       Hasan Mahsum was reportedly killed in a              quickly built up forces capable of moving
shows less need for such formality. Today, ter-      firefight in northwest Pakistan in December          down the spectrum of violence—away from
rorists are increasingly able to wrap themselves     of 2003 along with other al Qaeda and mili-          military actions in favor of paramilitary and
and their local fights in al Qaeda’s banner          tant suspects. According to press reports,           then police forces more capable of moving in
without formal institutional links. After suc-       China continues to press Pakistan to elimi-          society. The government acted forcefully and
cessful attacks, al Qaeda’s leadership can then      nate or repatriate Uyghur militants taking           found more appropriate and effective levels
take credit—even postmortem. While we                refuge across its southern border.5                  of force to interact with society. Political tools
struggle for the appropriate vocabulary to                  While the reliability of this informa-        were implemented that fundamentally altered
categorize our current threat, al Qaeda has          tion is difficult to assess from open sources,       the social environment. Consequently, society
placed itself at the forefront of a global social    22 Chinese Uyghurs were imprisoned at                in Xinjiang today is far less receptive to insur-
                                                                                                          gency. In short, China drove change in society
                                                                                                          through a bottom-up approach.
       Xinjiang’s governance, social, educational, and religious                                                 At first China responded brutally, using
      institutions were deemed to be infiltrated with separatists                                         military force directly against society, suppress-
                                                                                                          ing riots and protests with the People’s Libera-
movement building on many local insurgencies         Guantanamo, according to the Congressional           tion Army (PLA). As the campaign progressed
as well as sympathetic individuals and societies     Research Service.6 Of these, five were report-       through the 1990s, the People’s Armed Police
abroad. Insurgencies are primarily indigenous        edly determined to be there by mistake. After        (PAP), the paramilitary Xinjiang Production
affairs, and the contemporary global jihad is        lengthy international diplomacy and Chinese          and Construction Corps (XPCC), the Public
no exception. Whatever the cause, security           condemnation, they were released not to              Security Bureau (PSB), and local police were
forces and political leaders often assert external   China but to a United Nations refugee camp           stood up and became able to assert their pres-
support for their local problems. External con-      in Albania. The fear, and not an unreasonable        ence not only throughout the region’s cities but
nections are present in nearly every insurgency,     one, was that China would likely torture and         also in towns and villages. These organizations
but these fights will have no traction or signifi-   then execute them if they were repatriated,          increasingly recruited Uyghur cadres, though
cance without the support of the local popula-       even though reportedly they were abducted by         Uyghurs assert that trust, responsibility, and
tion, solicited through approbation or fear.         bounty hunters and sold to American forces as        promotion to higher ranks have been slowed if
       In Xinjiang, insurgency and counter-          “terrorists” for the equivalent of $5,000. After     not outright prevented because of racist fears
insurgency simultaneously evolved; as the            long denying any training in Afghanistan, the        and Chinese worries about training future
insurgency changed character, the counter-           Albanian five now say they went to a Uyghur          insurgents (as in Chechnya and numerous
insurgency adapted. However, the Xinjiang            camp outside of Tora Bora because the food was       other insurgencies where resistance leaders
counterinsurgency differs from others in that        free. They learned to fire an old assault weapon     were once members of the security forces).
it evolved along its own trajectory, separated       and did not ask questions.7 Ten of the Chinese              Chinese sources speak of a “four-in-one
from the influences of the insurgency’s tactical     Uyghurs at Guantanamo were deemed to be              defense” of Xinjiang: the PLA, PAP, XPCC,
ebb and flow.                                        receiving military training in order to return to    and the Chinese people (see figure 2).9 Here
       The official statistics for casualties in     China and put their new paramilitary insurgent       the term Chinese people refers primarily to
Xinjiang between 1990 and 20014 have not been        skills to use. The remaining seven were deemed       Xinjiang’s growing Han population that moved
amended since 2001. While there are slight fluc-     to be hardcore al Qaeda operatives, willing to       in from the eastern provinces. When the
tuations in particular numbers when recited by       fight wherever the next jihad might take them.       Communists took control of China circa 1949,

44        JFQ  /  issue 47, 4th quarter 2007                                                                                             n d

ethnic Han represented about 6 percent of the          Crafting Meaningful Security                      separatists and their ideology. While bombings
population in Xinjiang; by 2005, an estimated                Security is more than military force        can powerfully motivate society against a state
50 percent of the population was Han. In 2005,         alone. For a campaign to be more than             through fear or approbation, the campaign in
there were roughly 10 million Han in Xinjiang,         momentarily tactically effective, the coun-       Xinjiang was perceived as heavily weighted
9 million Uyghurs, and a few million of other          terinsurgency must both use the least force       in favor of political-ideological penetration
predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups                                                              of society and grass-roots institutions. If suc-
including Hui, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Mongol, Tajik,                                                            cessful, this would effectively have severed
and Uzbek.                                                   scholars looking back                       the state from local society. Feeling itself in a
       China’s mix of security forces in Xinjiang           through history’s failed                     precarious situation, China’s military presence
expanded and improved in quality. They grew             counterinsurgencies highlight                    in Xinjiang purged its institutions not only of
more professional and locally knowledgeable,              the need for dealing with                      those suspected of separatism but also of ideas
and the presence of these improved forces                                                                considered separatist. Thus, the soft policies in
                                                           insurgencies before they
was expanded into more localities, thus giving                                                           Xinjiang ranged from coercion through coopta-
prestigious employment to local men in service
                                                                   take hold                             tion to genuine incorporation, a project still in
of the state’s project. These tools moved down                                                           process.
the spectrum of violence from military through         possible to dominate the battlespace and                 Governance in Xinjiang is achieved at
paramilitary to internal intelligence agencies         engage and reshape society into an environ-       each level with paired government and party
and finally local police. Together, China’s mix        ment inhospitable to the insurgency. Beyond       officials where, locals explain, the official with
of security forces grew more capable of dealing        building more capable forces, China initiated a   overriding weight to make policy will be Han
effectively with society without escalating levels     comprehensive campaign to transform society       Chinese and the lesser official will be an ethnic
of violence. Security forces are inherently imper-     using governance, educational, religious, and     minority, primarily Uyghur. For example, at a
fect; brutal excesses occur in even the freest soci-   economic tools.                                   university, the president might be a Han and
eties, and Xinjiang’s forces today stand accused              As the insurgency escalated and reached    the party secretary a Uyghur; a prefecture
of torturing suspects even over petty theft. Stra-     its high-water mark in the late 1990s, China      would have a Uyghur governor and a Han party
tegically, keeping these excesses to a minimum         found its grip on Xinjiang increasingly threat-   secretary. The key to knowing who holds the
is a key to preventing escalation from incident to     ened, not from raw violence but from the          power at each level, locals in and out of leader-
protest to repression to riot or bombing.              perceived infiltration of local institutions by   ship say, is looking at which post is controlled
                                                                                                         by the Han. Though Xinjiang is a deeply and
  Figure 2. Xinjiang’s Four-in-One Defense                                                               fundamentally racially divided society with
                                                                                                         self-perceived discrimination ever-present, the
                                   1. People’s Liberation Army (PLA)—50,000 to 100,000. China’s          party-state has been making a concerted effort
                                   military in Xinjiang is of questionable quality and readiness.
                                   Missions include backing the People’s Armed Police if necessary       to incorporate “loyal” Uyghurs increasingly into
   AIR FORCE             NAVY      in internal security and border defense missions.                     the governance structure since the purges of the
                                                                                                         1990s. These cadres are largely university edu-
                                   2. People’s Armed Police (PAP)—50,000 to 100,000. Paramilitary
                                   police primarily responsible for internal security and border         cated within the region and secularly minded.
                                   defense. Many PAP units were demobilized from the PLA. In                    Today, Uyghur officials hold power
                                   Xinjiang, the PAP’s most visible units are more professionalized
                                                                                                         greater and more genuine than at any time since
                                   than elsewhere in China; PAP troops can be seen marching in units
                                   as small as five men through Xinjiang’s cities. Like the PLA, the     the founding of the People’s Republic. Neverthe-
                                   PAP in Xinjiang engages in construction and other activities that     less, minority officials fear that if they use this
                                   are not strictly military.                                            power they might overstep and suffer severe
                                   3. Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp (XPCC)—                  consequences. The actions of minority cadres in
                                   2,453,600 (933,000 workers). Paramilitary farming group
                                   established under Mao to populate Xinjiang, cultivate the land,       government and in the party will determine the
                                   and provide a loyal population in case the region was invaded by      strategic longevity of China’s hold on Xinjiang;
                                   the Soviet Union, making People’s War necessary. The XPCC ran         the greater the power devolved to capable local
                                   prison labor camps.
                                                                                                         minority cadres, the more effective the effort
   4. Han Residents and Immigrants—9,000,000 to 10,000,000. In 1949, ethnic Hans represented             will become. In the wake of the Tiananmen
   an estimated 6 percent of Xinjiang’s population; today, Hans likely constitute a solid 50 percent.
                                                                                                         era, loyalty to the party-state was relatively easy
                                                                                                         to assess: in many cases the individuals later
  Unmentioned in China’s Accounting of Xinjiang
  Uyghurs in Xinjiang—8,000,000 to 9,000,000. While the last census was in 2000, the
                                                                                                         judged to be loyal had remained noticeably
  demographic shift in Xinjiang has been pronounced. The year 2005 may be the first time that            silent when protests rocked Xinjiang’s universi-
  Hans outnumbered Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.                                     ties and government centers.
   Public Security Bureau (PSB)—Strength in Xinjiang unknown. The vanguard policing and                         Education is a primary concern for coun-
   domestic intelligence organization, the PSB in Xinjiang is reputed to resort to violence against
                                                                                                         terinsurgents, for a society’s view of its history
   suspects first and, perhaps, ask questions later. In 2005, China announced the creation of 36
   antiterrorism groups in key cities, likely within the PSB. Other prominent PSB missions include       and its future is at stake. In Xinjiang, local
   counternarcotics, countersubversion (political and religious, including countering nonviolent         schools were opened offering education in either
   challenges to state power), and acting as antiriot shock troops. The PSB is perceived to have         Uyghur or Han (Mandarin) languages, where
   penetrated all of Xinjiang’s above-ground social institutions with spies and informers.
                                                                                                         educated Uyghurs could find prestigious work

ndupres                                                                                                   issue 47, 4th quarter 2007  /  JFQ        45
                        FORUM | Five Lessons from China’s War on Terror

                        teaching Beijing’s lessons in their local languages.      staffed nearly completely by Han, and the most         forces if a husband, father, or son failed to turn
                        In China’s perspective, this campaign was                 materially developed towns have the largest            himself in after an incident of unrest.
                        perceived to be so successful at incorporating            percentages of Han.                                           Thus, where population-centric warfare
                        Uyghurs into the system that in 2004 the use of                                                                  can be (perhaps mis-)construed as working to
                        their language in higher education was curtailed          Countering Insurgency Bottom-up                        protect the population from external actors,
                        in favor of the next step: education primarily in                 “Responsibility begins at home” might          bad apples, or evildoers, a society-centric
                        Hanyu (the Chinese name for Mandarin, literally           be China’s counterterrorism motto if its system        approach targets those who act violently, as
                        the language of the Han). The content of educa-           allowed critical investigation and analyses of the     well as the idea of violent resistance by creating
                        tion is similarly controlled by the party-state,          campaign and its effectiveness. While the most         multiple, often overlapping consequences for
                        and spies and informants are believed to police           recent U.S. counterinsurgency manuals, mili-           resistance. In China, the social power structure
                        classroom compliance.                                     tary and civilian alike, rightly highlight the non-    is designed around geographic, familial, and
                               Religious practice in Xinjiang is far less         military aspects of counterinsurgency, China           economic groups. While the groupings in every
                        constrained than is popularly reported by                 implemented what is here termed society-centric        society are different, an approach that focuses
                        Western media accounts. Mosques abound                    warfare. Beyond the population-centric                 on turning the groupings of society against an
                        and attendance is reportedly unhampered                   approach advocated in U.S. counterinsurgency           insurgency can be implemented broadly.
                        for normal people. Constraints are placed on              doctrine, China’s approach assigned respon-                   Beyond the military, PLA, and PAP,
                        individuals in positions of authority because,            sibility for working against the insurgency to         China increasingly stood up security forces
                        China argues, nonreligious cadres can repre-              all of the groupings in society. Internationally       capable of moving within society, before and
                        sent everyone while those who openly espouse              and internally, China holds groups accountable         during incidents of unrest. The Public Secu-
                        particular religions will represent only that             for the actions of its members. Through the            rity Bureau and local police forces together
                        religion. The content of religion is similarly            Shanghai Cooperation Organization as well as           found spies and informers for every occasion.
                        curtailed: while spirituality may be expressed,           bilateral relationships, Beijing pressures Central     Schools, mosques, workplaces, and neighbor-
                        when the content of religion is perceived as              Asian countries to control their Uyghur popula-        hoods were all perceived to be penetrated,
                        political, the offending leader or group is pres-         tions and prevent them from working against            under the state’s watchful eye.

                                                                                                                                            in Xinjiang, using society-
All photos: PLA Daily

                                                                                                                                         centric warfare, every grouping
                                                                                                                                          of society is held accountable
                                                                                                                                                for its rank and file
                        Left to right: Xinjiang Production and Construction Corporation members on patrol; PLA memorial service 
                                                                                                                                                 Pervasive surveillance has an exponen-
                        for policeman killed in raid on terrorist camp in Xinjiang; People’s Armed Police train in Xinjiang; People’s 
                        Armed Police guard train station in Xinjiang                                                                     tial effect on society beyond the simple collec-
                                                                                                                                         tion of information: reporting to authorities
                        sured or removed—at times through heavy-                  its interests. China reportedly has intelligence       is additionally driven by individuals afraid of
                        handed measures. Locals assert that mosques               operatives working within these countries, yet         being accused of participating or supporting
                        and other religious settings, like educational            primary responsibility rests with the governing        illicit activities because they failed to report.
                        ones, are infiltrated and monitored for political         authorities to police their own domain.                Furthermore, China’s security forces held
                        dissent by security forces.                                      In Xinjiang, using this strategy of society-    social groups responsible for the actions of
                               Economic development is, President Hu              centric warfare, every grouping of society is          their members. Not only were these negative
                        Jintao asserts, “the key to solving all of China’s        held accountable for its rank and file. The            tools implemented, but also the positive policy
                        problems.” Nevertheless, while Xinjiang radi-             region’s government, as well as prefectures, vil-      tools of governance, education, economic
                        ates visible material development from city               lages, neighborhoods, and families, are respon-        development, and religion described above
                        centers outwards, locals perceive that they are           sible for their members. Employers, especially         drew society’s support away from the insur-
                        receiving none of the benefits and are largely            those directly controlled by the government,           gency and opened a path, however slow and
                        shut out of the economy due to pervasive                  must account for their employees. The limited          bitter, toward a better future incorporated into
                        ethnic discrimination. Even though economic               opportunities for moving or for obtaining new          a new, evolving China.
                        development is a statistical reality in Xinjiang,         employment in Xinjiang throughout the 1990s
                        its effects on society’s support for insurgency           greatly facilitated this strategy. Consequences        engendering Counterinsurgency
                        are inflammatory: Uyghurs perceive this                   for failing to prevent problems or respond                   The counterinsurgency in Xinjiang was
                        development as an increasingly visible sign of            appropriately range from stigma and stern              enabled by seemingly infinite political will:
                        Han invading from outside the region to take              warnings from the seemingly ever-present               the Chinese people demand internal stabil-
                        local natural resources and jobs. Spot surveys            security forces, in uniform or plain clothes,          ity and give the regime freedom of action
                        made while traveling through Xinjiang confirm             to loss of employment (to which the entire             to remove threats from the periphery. The
                        this perception. For instance, road construc-             family’s housing, health care, and income may          Communist Party, concerned primarily with
                        tion crews in several locations were almost               be tied) and perhaps worse. Some families              self-preservation of its position atop the one-
                        entirely composed of Han workers, banks were              reportedly have been threatened by security            party-state, drives and assists state responses

                        46        JFQ  /  issue 47, 4th quarter 2007                                                                                                   n d

to instability on the periphery. The state,          this trend more than continued, spiking at            Policy, ed. Yong Deng and Fei-Ling Wang (Boulder:
directed by the party, must produce the per-         74,000 “mass incidents” in 200411 and 87,000          Rowman and Littlefield, 2005); Yitzhak Shichor,
ception of stability that the people demand.         “social order” crimes in 2005.12 Officials’           “The Great Wall of Steel: Military and Strategy,” in
                                                                                                           Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland, ed. S. Fred-
Internal stability is primary among China’s          statements and Chinese media reports assert
                                                                                                           rick Starr (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2004).
strategic interests because it enables all other     that the statistics may have dropped nearly 20             5
                                                                                                                   For example, see Daily Times (Pakistan),
goals, including prospects for economic              percent in 2006, yet this numerical change is         “China Demands 20 Insurgents Hiding in Paki-
development.10                                       likely produced by altered methodology for            stan,” March 17, 2007.
       The priority on stability facilitated an      counting and reporting by officials and the                6
                                                                                                                   Shirley A. Kan, U.S.-China Counterterrorism
effective counterinsurgency in two ways.             media, and not from social changes created            Cooperation: Issues for U.S. Policy (Washington,
Firstly, the regional leadership quickly under-      by deliberate policy. Furthermore, open               DC: Congressional Research Service, updated June
stood that they had to quiet the unrest quickly      source data on incidents of unrest13 correlate        27, 2006).
and completely, and that they had the full           closely with the spectrum of press access                  7
                                                                                                                   Tim Golden, “Chinese Leave Guantanamo
support of national leaders along with the core      across China and may thus reflect access              for Albanian Limbo,” The New York Times, June 10,
population silently backing official actions—        rather than facts on the ground.                      2007.
                                                                                                                   Bruce Hoffman, “Does Our Counter-Terror-
whatever they might be. Secondly, like peoples              Fundamentally, Chinese leaders must
                                                                                                           ism Strategy Match the Threat?” Statement before
elsewhere in China, the population of Xinjiang       enable and produce substantive changes in
                                                                                                           the Committee on International Relations Subcom-
increasingly if grudgingly bought into the idea      society before the spell wears off—before the         mittee on International Terrorism and Nonprolif-
that stability across China leads to a better        older generations’ fears of unrest fade and           eration, U.S. House of Representatives, September
future. Acceptance of this vision of Xinjiang        new generations rise to maturity, fearless.           29, 2005.
benefiting from increasing incorporation into        Threats from the periphery (for example,                   9
                                                                                                                   Xinhua News Agency, “Role of Xinjiang
China undercut passive support for insurgency        Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan) are subsiding as         Production, Construction Corps Important: White
and drew Uyghurs and Uyghur society into             dissent and unrest are beginning to shake the         Paper,” May 26, 2003.
active stabilizing roles in governance, business,    core in myriad localities. In Xinjiang, China              10
                                                                                                                   Phillip C. Saunders, China’s Global Activism:
religion, and education.                             has purchased time with a firm hand accom-            Strategy, Drivers, and Tools, Occasional Paper 4
       The prospect of unrest in Xinjiang            panied by the promise of a great and prosper-         (Washington, DC: National Defense University
                                                                                                           Press, October 2006); Michael D. Swaine and
shook the regime’s veneer of stability and           ous future; the next national challenge is to
                                                                                                           Ashley J. Tellis, Interpreting China’s Grand Strategy:
catalyzed government action with the full if         reform local governance before corrupt and
                                                                                                           Past, Present, and Future (Santa Monica: RAND,
uninformed backing of the Chinese people.            capricious officials discredit and undercut the       2000); Suisheng Zhao, A Nation-State by Construc-
Simply put, the Chinese people demand                entire Chinese project. JFQ                           tion: Dynamics of Modern Chinese Nationalism
stability because they survived the bad days                                                               (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004); Suish-
of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural                               NOTeS                             eng Zhao, ed., Debating Political Reform in China:
Revolution. For the core, these self-inflicted                                                             Rule of Law vs. Democratization (Armonk, NY:
wounds of the past buy today’s regime time
                                                            Chinese Communist Party, author unknown        M.E. Sharpe, 2006); Xinhua News Agency, “Build-
                                                     (2005), Zhongguo Gongchandang Yu Xinjiang             ing of Political Democracy in China.”
as it attempts to build a new economic and
                                                     Minzu Wenti.                                               11
                                                                                                                   Murray Scot Tanner, “China Rethinks
political order across the country. China’s               2
                                                            See, for example, David Kilcullen, “Counter-   Unrest,” The Washington Quarterly 27, no. 3 (2004),
reform strategy is east, then west; economics,
                                                     insurgency Redux,” Survival 48, no. 4 (Winter         137; Edward Cody, “A Chinese City’s Rage at the
then politics.                                       2006–2007), 117, 122. See also James Millward,        Rich and Powerful,”, August
                                                     “Violent Separatism in Xinjiang: A Critical Assess-   1, 2005; Howard W. French, “Land of 74,000
       While the Communist Party’s concern           ment,” Policy Studies, no. 6 (Honolulu: East-West     Protests (But Little Is Ever Fixed),” The New York
is for self-preservation atop the state, the state   Center, 2004), 9–10; Omar Nasiri, Inside the Jihad:   Times, August 24, 2005.
must produce the perception, and perhaps the         My Life with Al Qaeda (New York: Basic Books,              12
                                                                                                                   The Military Power of the People’s Republic
reality, of internal stability. The party-state is   2006); John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, Networks     of China in 2006 (Washington, DC: Office of the
operating on time purchased by the negative          and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Mili-   Secretary of Defense, 2006) asserts that these
push of previous sociopolitical tumults and          tancy (Santa Monica: RAND, 2001).                     figures may not be directly comparable; however,
                                                            See Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror         media reporting asserts otherwise. For example,
the positive pull of the gradual but significant
                                                     Networks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylva-      see Chris Buckley, “China to ‘Strike Hard’ Against
changes perceived by society. Paradoxically,
                                                     nia Press, 2004); Michael Scheuer, Through Our        Rising Unrest,” Reuters, January 26, 2006; Sarah
while society craves stability and credits
                                                     Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and     Jackson-Han, “China Struggles to Keep Lid on
the current national leadership for positive         the Future of America (Washington, DC: Brassey’s,     Popular Unrest,” Radio Free Asia, January 31, 2006;
works, the local application of power is often       2002); Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda: Global       Anthony Kuhn, “Inside China’s Angry Villages,”
unchecked, capricious, corrupt, and caustic.         Network of Terror (New York: Columbia University      The Los Angeles Times, February 11, 2006.
Riots, often violent and large, arise across         Press, 2002); Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism              13
                                                                                                                   For example, Open Source Center, “Statistics,
China as local officials clumsily and heavily        (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006).          Summaries of PRC Civil Disturbances in 2006,”
assert themselves, in many instances needlessly           4
                                                            Information Office of State Council, “‘East    March 5, 2007; Open Source Center, “Highlights:
escalating property disputes and family-plan-        Turkistan’ Terrorist Forces Cannot Get Away with      Reports on PRC Civil Disturbances for 2005,”
ning practices into social unrest.                   Impunity,” January 21, 2002; Andrew Scobell,          February 2, 2006; Foreign Broadcasting Informa-
                                                     “Terrorism and Chinese Foreign Policy,” in China      tion Service, “Highlights: PRC Civil Disturbances 1
       Across China, political protests
                                                     Rising: Power and Motivation in Chinese Foreign       Jan–15 Dec 04,” December 23, 2004.
increased dramatically during the 1990s and

ndupres                                                                                                      issue 47, 4th quarter 2007  /  JFQ        47
FORUM | 2007 Report on the Chinese Military

plans, these preparations do not necessarily         decade—and U.S. deterrence theory would not              units most closely resemble state-based U.S.
reflect national strategic intentions.               disagree. From Beijing’s perspective, however,           National Guard units and, to a lesser extent, U.S.
       Former Secretary Rumsfeld’s disingenu-        this threat does not contradict its official pref-       Reserve units, though U.S. Reserve forces are much
                                                                                                              more interchangeable with Active duty units than
ous assertion that “no nation threatens China”       erence for peaceful reunification.
                                                                                                              are their PLA counterparts.
is inconsistent with the reality of American               Military professionals can operate in                   10
                                                                                                                      The PLA marine force is part of the navy and
global military capabilities. Chinese civilian       an environment of deterrence and potential               consists of two brigades. Technically, these marines
and military leaders have long understood            threats, seeking to lower the possibility for            are not part of the ground force. The army, on the
that U.S. military deployments and capa-             conflict while preparing for the worst. The              other hand, has two amphibious mechanized infan-
bilities have the potential to threaten their        Pentagon report does not characterize the                try divisions, which add up to at least twice the size
country. This point was made specifically by         United States as a potential threat to China,            of the marine force.
Colonel Larry Wortzel, USA (Ret.), in a recent       but there is no doubt the potential is well                   11
                                                                                                                      “Introduction to Gong’an Frontier Defense
monograph published by the U.S. Army War             understood in Beijing.                                   Units,” Ministry of Public Security Web site,
College: “China’s leaders and military think-                                                                 July 18, 2006, available at <
ers see the United States as a major potential             The modernization of the Chinese armed             cn/cenweb/brjlCenweb/jsp/common/article.
threat to the PLA and China’s interests              forces is a topic of utmost importance to the                 12
                                                                                                                      People’s War is called a “strategic concept”
primarily because of American military               United States, its allies, and Asia. The U.S.
                                                                                                              in the 2006 White Paper and “a fundamental strat-
capabilities, but also because of U.S. security      Congress and public deserve a reliable, compre-          egy” in The Science of Military Strategy, ed. Peng
relationships in Asia.”30                            hensive evaluation that can be used as the basis         Guangqian and Yao Youzhi, English ed. (Beijing:
       Wortzel bases his conclusion on               for informed discussion about a subject that             Military Science Publishing House, 2005), 117. All
information that was available long before           will be critical to the course of history in Asia        quotations from The Science of Military Strategy are
Rumsfeld’s speech in 2005. The U.S. Govern-          for the 21st century. While this year’s report           from the English edition.
ment would categorize America’s potential to         was an improvement over previous efforts, the                 13
                                                                                                                      Science of Military Strategy, 426.
use military force as part of its overall deter-     Pentagon can do much better. JFQ                              14
                                                                                                                      Ibid., 230–231.
rence posture. This year’s report illustrated
                                                                                                                      Ibid., 454–455.
the continuing relevance of U.S. deterrence
                                                                                                                      China’s National Defense in 2006.
                                                                          NOTeS                                    17
                                                                                                                      Science of Military Strategy, 224.
in a textbox entitled “Factors of Deterrence,”
                                                            The requirements for the report are found in
                                                                                                                      Ibid., 213–215, 228.
which begins: “China is deterred on multiple
                                                     Section 1202 of the National Defense Authoriza-
                                                                                                                      Ibid., 222. The book’s use of the term limited
levels from taking military action against                                                                    nuclear deterrence would probably be more accu-
                                                     tion Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (Public Law 106–65),
Taiwan. First, China does not yet possess the                                                                 rately described as “a credible nuclear deterrent
                                                     October 5, 1999, available at <
military capability to accomplish with con-                                                                   force” as stated in the 2006 White Paper.
fidence its political objectives on the island,           2
                                                            Department of Defense, Military Power
                                                                                                                      Al Pessin, “U.S. Commander Calls Chinese
particularly when confronted with the pros-          of the People’s Republic of China 2007, Annual           Interest in Aircraft Carriers ‘Understandable,’”
pect of U.S. intervention [emphasis added].”         Report to Congress (Washington, DC: Office of            Voice of America, May 12, 2007, accessed at <http://
       At the same time, the Pentagon report         the Secretary of Defense, 2007), available at <www.>.
actually describes a parallel approach by  
                                                                                                                      China’s National Defense in 2006.
China toward Taiwan, but without using the           tary-Power-final.pdf>.
                                                            “PRC Law on National Defense,” Beijing
                                                                                                                      Science of Military Strategy, 258.
word deterrence:
                                                     Xinhua Domestic Service, March 18, 1997, trans.
                                                                                                                      Ibid., 468.
                                                     Open Source Center (OSC).
                                                                                                                      “JFJB: Promote Innovation in Military Work
Beijing appears prepared to defer unification as                                                              Using Scientific Development Concept,” Jiefang-
                                                            Percentages are based on estimates found in
long as it believes trends are advancing toward                                                               jun Bao (Beijing), August 6, 2006, 1, trans. OSC
                                                     the International Institute for Strategic Studies, The
that goal and that the costs of conflict outweigh                                                             (CPP20060811720002).
                                                     Military Balance 2006 (London: Routledge, 2006),
the benefits. In the near term, Beijing’s focus is   264. The PLA does not control the Chinese civilian
                                                                                                                      “JFJB: Scientific Development Concept as
likely one of preventing Taiwan from moving          defense industrial complex, which is overseen by         Guidance for Building Modern Logistics,” Jiefang-
toward de jure independence while continuing         the Commission of Science, Technology and Indus-         jun Bao (Beijing), August 6, 2006, 1, trans. OSC
to hold out terms for peaceful resolution under      try for National Defense.                                (CPP20060814715022).
a “one country, two systems” framework that               5
                                                            The PAP and militia have no direct equivalents
                                                                                                                      The United States–China Policy Foundation,
would provide Taiwan a degree of autonomy in         in the U.S. Armed Forces. The PAP is similar to the      “Defense-Related Spending in China: A Prelimi-
                                                     French Gendarmerie or the Italian Carabinieri.           nary Analysis and Comparison with American
exchange for its unification with the mainland
                                                            Information Office of the State Council of        Equivalents,” May 2007, 30.
[emphasis added].
                                                     the People’s Republic of China, China’s National
                                                                                                                      China’s National Defense in 2006.
                                                     Defense in 2006, December 29, 2006.
                                                                                                                      Edward Cody, “U.S. Aims to Improve
      Instead, the report categorizes the PLA’s                                                               Military Ties with China,” The Washington Post,
                                                            Xinhua News Agency, “CMC Promotes 28
“sustained military threat to Taiwan” as part of                                                              May 16, 2006, A14, available at <www.washing-
                                                     Armed Police Officers to Major General 28 Aug,”
an “overall campaign of persuasion and coer-         Beijing Xinhua in English, August 29, 2006, trans.
cion.” By China’s own definition, deterrence         OSC (CPP20060829057005).                                 AR2006051500413_pf.html>.
includes the threat of force through demon-               8
                                                            The Military Balance 2006, 264.
                                                                                                                      Larry M. Wortzel, China’s Nuclear Forces:
stration of actual military capabilities, which           9
                                                            PLA reserve units and militia are known           Operations, Training, Doctrine, Command, Control,
is exactly what has been observed over the past      collectively as China’s “reserve force.” PLA reserve     and Campaign Planning (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S.
                                                                                                              Army War College, May 2007), vii.

54        JFQ  /  issue 47, 4th quarter 2007                                                                                                   n d

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