China needs to exercise caution over combating IS

Updated: 2014-09-23 07:40

By Li Shaoxian(China Daily)

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Should China join the US-led alliance against the Islamic State extremists, the terrorist group plundering northern Iraq and nearby regions?

Iraq situation demands China to engage

Let Mideast people solve their region's problems

Should China join the US-led alliance against the Islamic State extremists, the terrorist group plundering northern Iraq and nearby regions?

It is a question that cannot be answered by a simple "yes" or "no".

China is one of the main victims of Islamic fundamentalism, as police have found that the majority of terrorist activities in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are controlled remotely by organizations outside China. The criminals who killed 29 people and injured 143 at Kunming railway station, Yunnan province, this March, also intended to join the "holy war" in Syria.

However, as the world's second-largest importer of crude oil, China relies heavily on the Middle East to fuel its development; in China's grand strategy, both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road economic belts need cooperation from Middle Eastern states, and, therefore, instability in Iraq is doubtlessly a grave challenge to China's economic security.

Yet taking the long-term view, Iraq will need reconstruction again after the IS group is defeated, which means investments and business opportunities. If China does not join the endeavor to defeat the IS, it might suffer in the reconstruction process and its interests might lack protection.

But joining the alliance against IS will not be without side effects.

At present, the alliance is dominated by the United States and its Western allies, which employ double standards, blaming and striking at terrorists that victimize the US and Europe, while the Western press and authorities tend to describe the same group in China as "freedom fighters".

Disagreements exist over other things, too. The US often sends drones through other countries' airspace without their approval, while China is strongly against that practice because such actions violate their sovereignty.

Before China joins the alliance, these issues would need to be addressed.

That's why, when US National Security Adviser Susan Rice sought to persuade China to join the alliance during her visit to Beijing earlier this month, China reacted quite cautiously. That is the right approach because China needs to be cautious and there needs to be thorough negotiations before it can choose to join the alliance.

There are also other options for China, such as better use of the United Nations framework in the fight against terrorism. Unlike the US-led alliance, the UN is more neutral, making it possible for China to join common efforts without sacrificing its principles.

The author is a senior researcher in Middle East Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. This is an excerpt from an interview he gave at a recent press salon.

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