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Anti-terrorist training
The terrorism issues has brought the United States and China together. Both countries are for the most part battling the same enemy, Islamic-inspired terrorism.

Terrorism is generally not a big threat in China. Most so-called terrorist activities such as bombings are carried out by individuals or small groups not in an organized movement.

In 2007, China was in the middle of drafting an anti-terrorism law.

The public security budget was raised by nearly a third in 2009 to $4.2 billion in part to address concerns about unrest in Tibet and western China and trouble brought out by unemployed workers and other problems associated with the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009.

In August 2008, 100 victims of terrorism in Israel filed a suit against the Bank of China demanding that it stop transferring money to terrorist groups. The suit filed in a court in Los Angeles claimed the bank “knowingly assisted Hamas and Islamic Jihad to carry out terrorist attacks” by transferring millions to them. The money, the suit claims, helped fund attack between 2004 and 2007. The money originated from the Middle East and was sent to accounts in the United States from a Bank of China branch in Guangzhou, where it was wired to Hamas ands Islamic Jihad leaders in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Chinese Response to Death of Bin Laden

Following Osama bin Laden's killing by U.S. commandos, Beijing renewed its appeals for international cooperation, though Chinese foreign policy experts have voiced concern that with the terror leader gone, the United States will devote more efforts to containing China's growing ambitions.

Beijing officially hailed the killing of the terrorist leader by the U.S. as "a milestone and a positive development for the international anti-terrorism efforts.” "Terrorism is the common enemy of the international community. China has also been a victim of terrorism," foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as saying after bin Laden's death. She was referring to Xinjiang, where Muslim separatists have been waging a bloody insurgency against Chinese rule.

Antoaneta Becker wrote in Inter Press Service, “Almost simultaneously with the spread of the news of Osama Bin Laden's death in a covert U.S. operation in Pakistan, Chinese analysts had begun the guessing game of where Washington will focus its attention next. "Why didn't they catch him alive?" speculated military affairs analyst Guo Xuan. "Because he was no longer needed as an excuse for Washington to take the anti-terror war outside of the U.S. borders. It is because of Bin Laden that the U.S. were allowed to increase their strategic presence in many places around the world as never before. But Libya and NATO's attack there have changed the game. They (the U.S.) no longer need bin Laden to assert their authority." [Source: Antoaneta Becker, Inter Press Service, May 6, 2011]

Even before bin Laden's death, Beijing had expressed concern that the U.S. strategists are diverting their attention from the war on terror to containing the rise of China and other emerging economies. A long article on Libya stalemate published by the editor of Contemporary International Relations magazine, Lin Limin, argued that the U.S. has been unwilling to take the lead role in the Libya conflict because it has "finally woken up to the fact that its main reason to worry are the emerging countries.

"If the U.S. position on Libya is not only a tactical stance but a strategic one and they have really come to understand that they should not waste military power and energy in numerous directions 'spreading democracy' all over the world but should begin focusing their attention on the rise of emerging countries, then we do have a reason to worry," Lin argued.

The U.S. presence in Afghanistan has always been a controversial one for Chinese politicians. China joined the global war on terror because bin Laden's political agenda of setting up an Arab caliphate and sponsoring terrorism presented a direct threat to its restive Muslim north-western region of Xinjiang. But Beijing has been suspicious of the U.S. intentions, worrying that Washington is pursuing a broader agenda for long-term presence in the region, which China regards as its backyard.

Chinese public reaction to the news of bin Laden's death has mixed reluctant admiration at the success of the secret mission played out reportedly on screens in front of U.S. President Barack Obama with outright fear over what comes next. "The whole thing seemed like an intelligence operation lifted straight out of '24 hours' (a TV series about U.S. counter-terrorism agents)," said Huang Mei, a TV producer with barely concealed awe. "How advanced and confident they must be to ask their President to watch the killing mission on screens live!"

But some see bin Laden's demise as a blow to efforts to promote a school of Anti-American thought. "The great anti-America fighter bin Laden was murdered by the U.S.! How sad!" wrote one commenter on Sina’s popular Weibo micro-blogging site. "Is this real? Excellent!" wrote another of the news. "Now the only terrorist left is the United States!"

Bombings in China

Explosions, both accidental and intentional, are common in China. In 1998, there were 2,500 bomb blasts in a nine month period. Among the 30 bombings in a 10 day period in 2001, was a blast at a McDonald’s in the tourist town of Xian that killed five people and injured 28, an explosion at a French department store in Qindao that killed and injured no one and 23 blasts in the Guangdong port cities of Zhanjiang and Jiangmen.

Many explosions are not related to terrorism. Easy-to-obtain industrial explosives are often used in attacks blamed on gangsters, jilted lovers and others and used to settle grievances. In past years, disgruntled Chinese citizens have set off explosions near buildings or on buses. Such "sudden incidents", as China refers to them, underscore broader government worries about stability in the world's second-largest economy, with a widening gap between rich and poor and growing anger at corruption and over environmental issues. In March 2001, 108 people were killed in explosions at four apartment housed in Shijazhuang, Hebei Province by a man who was seeking revenge against relatives that angered him.

In May 2002, a China Northern Airlines MD-82 crashed in the Yellow Sea just short of its destination, the coastal city of Dalian, killing 112 people. The crash was blamed on sabotage caused by a passenger who set a fire using gasoline in a soft drink can. Shortly before the crash the pilot radioed there was a fire in the cabin. An investigation figured out the identity of the passenger accused of starting the fire.

In February 2003, two explosions at two universities in Beijing that occurred within two hours of one another and injured nine people. A 27-year-old farmer from Fujian was arrested in connection the blast. No motive was given.

Bombings in China in the Mid 2000s

In January 2006, a suicide bomber blew himself in a courthouse in Gansu Province in western China, killing four and injuring 22. The bomber was a 62-year-old farmer angered by the fact that he was forced to pay his former wife $8,800 as part of a divorce settlement.

In December 2006, two consecutive blasts in a residential area on Jining, a remote city of 200,000 in Inner Mongolia, killed five. Police said the bombings were more likely cases of murder than terrorism

In July 2007, large bomb made with 200 kilograms of mining explosives exploded in a karaoke bar and bathhouse in the town of Tian Shifu in Liaoning Province. Many of the people having a good time inside and some passerby were killed or injured. It was not clear how many died as local censors tried to restrict the news about the event. Local reports said 25 were killed. Local people said 43 were killed. It was not certain who set the bomb. Among those questioned were the mistress of the karaoke owner and gambler who lost a lot of money in the karaokes’s gambling rooms.

In September 2009, a bombmaking factory was found near the Myanmar

American Injured by Explosion in Dongzhimen

In October 2010, the South China Morning “A explosion on a footpath injured an American pedestrian in one of the busiest business districts in Beijing yesterday, state media reported. The explosion took place near a newsstand at Dongzhimen, site of an ancient city gate but now a bustling spot with office buildings, restaurants and shopping centres, at about 3.20pm, Xinhua reported. [Source: Stephen Chen, South China Morning Post, October 22, 2010]

“Police said a 30-year-old American passerby, who is on a student pass, was slightly injured in the leg. He was taken to hospital. A report posted on the China Central Television website said white smoke rising as high as five storeys was seen after the blast. There was no fire. No remnants of the container that might have held the explosive material or traces of chemicals were found.

The blast left a hole as large as a wash basin on the plastic wall of the newsstand. Fragments of decorative plants were scattered on the footpath. The report said the explosion occurred less than two meters away from the newsstand. The report, and other internet postings, were removed later, however. Workers at a nearby Sichuan restaurant said they heard a loud bang. Police arrived soon after, setting up blockades and causing more traffic woes on the already congested roads.

A waitress said she felt as if bees were buzzing in her head after the blast. "I still feel a little dizzy," she said. The restaurant where she works is about 50 meters from the explosion site and is on the third floor of a glass building.

A spokesman for Beijing Public Security Bureau said they had no comment pending the investigation. Speculation was rife over the cause of the explosion, with some postings on the internet linking it to a terrorist attack. However, others ruled out such a possibility as Beijing is the most guarded city on the mainland. There was also talk that the blast might have been due to an electrical fault or caused by vapour leaks from ageing heating pipes, many of which are undergoing checks as winter draws near.

Bombing by Disgruntled Gansu Bank Teller

In May 2011, a bank cashier in the town of Tianzhu in Gansu province in northwestern China who was fired for stealing money threw a gasoline bomb inside the bank, injuring dozens of people, some of whom jumped from a fifth-storey window to escape, the local government said. A suspect, Yang Xianwen, fled but was caught by police about nine hours later a short distance away, the government said. [Source: Associated Press, May 13, 2011]

AP reported: “Employees of the Tianzhu County Rural Credit Co-operative Union were meeting at about 8 a.m. when Yang threw the gasoline bomb, the propaganda office of the county's Communist Party said in a statement. Forty-nine 40 people were hurt, 19 seriously. The county said some of the injured jumped from the meeting room window onto a three-storey building.

The statement said Yang was fired last month for embezzling bank money. A witness reached by phone and the official Xinhua News Agency described ambulances and police streaming to the scene. The injured, with visible burns, were carried out of the building on stretchers, according to a witness quoted by Xinhua. More than 80 police were involved in the search for Yang, who was cornered at the county waterworks, the county government said.

Explosions in Jiangxi City

In May 2011, Reuters reported: “Explosions at three sites near government buildings in an eastern Chinese city have damaged 10 cars and injured at least five people, state media has reported. The cause of the near-simultaneous blasts in Fuzhou, Jiangxi province, was blamed on a disgruntled farmer. The blasts shook the prosecutor's office, a government office and the district food and drug administration, Xinhua said. Most of the windows in the eight-storey prosecutor's office were shattered after the explosion less than 100m away, it added. Fuzhou, Jiangxi province should not to be confused with the better known Fuzhou in Fujian Province. [Source: Reuters, The Guardian. May 26, 2011]

According to an article posted on Shanghaiist: “The explosions took place one after the other between 9:18 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. — the first at the carpark of the prosecutors’ office, the second inside an administration building and the third near a food and drug administration office. Two were killed from the blasts, including the bomber himself, and another ten people injured. [Source: Shanghaiist.com, May 27, 2011]

One villager, Zhang Weizhang, believed that a discontented local resident was to blame. "There are plenty of people complaining about the government. They ignore complaints. They've ignored mine," said Zhang, who said he was in a dispute over forestry rights in Fuzhou's Linchuan district. "But nobody ordinary would do something like this. This isn't normal for here." Fuzhou's Communist party boss, Gan Liangmiao, told officials in October that they must "firmly establish the idea that stability comes before all else and stability comes higher than anything else", the Fuzhou Daily said at the time. [Source: Reuters, The Guardian. May 26, 2011]

Jiangxi province is home to many mines, which use explosives, and fireworks manufacturers. Chinese farmers have been at the centre of many incidents of unrest and protest, with anger frequently focused on land grabs to make way for infrastructure projects or commercial buildings. Last year, three people set themselves on fire in a Jiangxi county, not far from Fuzhou, to try to stop officials forcing them out of their homes to make way for a bus station.

Sad Story of the Jiangxi Bomber

According to an article posted on Shanghaiist: The bomber has been identified as 52-year-old unemployed Fuzhou native Qian Mingqi, and the trail of internet activity he has left behind tells of a man who has been actively trying to seek redress for the loss of his property which he says was illegally demolished by authorities, causing him to lose over 2 million yuan.” [Source: Shanghaiist.com, May 27, 2011]

On his Sina Weibo profile, Qian has a picture of himself standing on Tiananmen Square. He describes himself thus in the About field: "I am healthy, mentally normal, and have never committed any crimes to date. My newly-built house was illegally and forcibly demolished, causing me massive losses. Ten years of fruitlessly trying to seek redress have forced me to go on a path I did not wish to take."Teaching himself how to use the internet, Qian also created multiple profiles on other microblog platforms, following lawyers, reporters, human rights defenders, academics, police departments and anyone else he thought might be able to help him.

The retweets on his various microblog profiles indicate that not only was Qian unable to get the attention of those he was following, he was exposed to many of the other injustices that go on daily in China — children getting kidnapped, old people attacked by police, migrant workers denied their wages, killing sprees in schools, and many other villagers, who like him, had their homes forcibly demolished. Those stories appear to have led him to believe that unless he took drastic action for himself and others like him, his story would never see the light of day. And so, Qian began to hatch his plan to execute a protest in the most dramatic fashion he thought possible.

On his microblogs, Qian gave multiple hints as to what he was up to. In a recent posting (see right) timed May 25 just past midnight, he told his followers to be on the lookout for "explosive news" that was going to happen soon in Jiangxi. The cause of this incident, Qian said, is a man by the name of Xi Dongsen, the current mayor of Fuzhou's Linchuan District, who in 2002 was the party's discipline secretary for the district, responsible for overseeing the demolition and relocation projects in the area which amounted to RMB10 million. At the end of the post, Qian says, "I do not wish to be another Qian Yunhui or Xu Wu, but I want to use action to remove evil-doers for the people. Qian Mingqi beseeches you to share this post for justice after the incident!"

In a separate post, Qian said poignantly, "Even if I go to heaven, I'm going to take a few of my enemies along with me!" Qian also appears to have gained contact over Weibo with the Zhong family involved in last year's self-immolation incident which took place in Fuzhou, but in a separate county called Yihuang. Qian's contact with the Zhongs was likely to have heightened his sense of despair at the injustices taking place around him and further strengthened his resolve to do something dramatic.

Sympathy for the Jiangxi Bomber

The outpouring of sympathy for Qian online has been massive, according to Shanghaiist. His profile on Sina Weibo alone attracted over 25,000 followers overnight. Many have pored through his postings in an attempt to look into what went through his mind in the last few months. In their condolence messages left on his account, some netizens have called him a "hero of the people", a "good person", and a "real man who sacrificed himself for others". Others have decried Sina Weibo moderators for their "inhumane" deletion of some of Qian Mingqi's tweets, arguing that the man's trail of internet activity should be left online. [Source: Shanghaiist.com, May 27, 2011]

The fear now is that more victims of injustices will be pushed over the edge when they see Qian Mingqi's path as the only one that they can take. In a related incident just hours after the Fuzhou explosions, netizens on Weibo wondered aloud if a former policeman would become a Qian Mingqi-copycat when he sent an open tweet to his lawyers that appeared to contain his last words. In it, he said he was giving up on his three-year search to seek redress for wrongful dismissal, and that they should speak up for him if anything untoward should happen to him. Hours later, the man reappeared on Weibo, confessing that the Qian Mingqi case had almost caused him to lose his rationality, and that his crying wife and daughter had found him by the lake, where he almost took his own life.


Militants fighting for a free “East Turkestan” have been labeled as terrorists and been blamed for setting off explosives, training terrorists, smuggling arms and stirring up riots. Although the government publically has dismissed Islamic extremist as "disgruntled farmers with fertilizer bombs” it takes their threat quite seriously.

September 11th and the war on terrorism, gave China an opportunity to cast a localized Uighur separatist movement as an international terrorist threat. China described itself as a “victim of international terrorism,” blamed unrest in Xinjiang on Osama bin Laden and asked the United States to include ETIM on its lists of terrorist organizations. At first Washington refused but when it sought support for its activitie sin Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq it changed its position and included the group on the terrorist list.

James Miflor, a professor at Georgetown and expert on Xinjiang, told National Geographic that many officials believe Xinjiang faces a serious terrorist threat because that “is what they are constantly told.”

In one speech Osama bin Laden called Chinese “pagan Buddhists.” It is hard to gage the support of Al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden because the Chinese Muslims are so afraid to speak their minds. But some have expressed sympathy for the Taliban and said there is not solid proof to link Osama bin Laden with September 11th.

The authoritarian government in Beijing has tried over the past decade to link its struggle against Xinjiang separatism to the wider U.S.-led campaign against militant Islamic terrorism. Some among the more radical Uighurs trained in Taliban camps in Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001 and since then moved across the border in Pakistan. Yet critics have said that Beijing is using the counterterrorism campaign to suppress nonviolent calls for independence and that its controls on the practice and teaching of Islam, the influx of Chinese migrants and security drills have served to exacerbate resentment among more moderate Uighurs.

Image Sources: Mongabey

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2011

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