Beijing’s Fear: Impotence in the Face of TerrorPosted: November 24, 2015
Deaths, image of bloodied hostage speed up calls for Chinese intervention in world’s trouble spots.
“To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.”
Among the scores of Chinese expatriates who have met violent deaths in the past decade at the hands of extremists, most have been workers in state companies drilling for oil, operating mines or building highways, hospitals and other infrastructure in unstable parts of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
“In response to Mr. Fan’s execution, don’t expect Chinese fighter jets to join bombing runs against Islamic State; China lacks the ability to project force in that way, even if it wanted to. It has no overseas military bases, and shuns military alliances.”
But the recent execution of the itinerant Beijing resident by Islamic State, along with a Norwegian hostage, triggered a particularly bitter outpouring of online commentary in China. While France responded to the massacre in Paris by declaring it was at war with Islamic State, and U.S. and Russian jets pounded the group’s strongholds, critics noted that the Chinese government offered only angry rhetoric in response to the killing of Mr. Fan.
“Beyond that, what else can it do?” scoffed one Internet user.
“But it’s only a matter of time, say security analysts, before China sends in special forces to free hostages or rescue Chinese civilians trapped in a crisis.”
Any accusation of impotence abroad, when Chinese lives are at stake, stings Beijing’s leadership. Almost certainly, Mr. Fan’s brutal slaying, together with the deaths of three Chinese rail executives gunned down in the Mali hotel siege, is likely to accelerate a trend for Beijing to intervene in lawless areas of the globe to protect its own nationals and massive investments.
President Xi Jinping vowed to strengthen collaboration with the world community “to resolutely fight violent terrorist activities that hurt innocent lives.” A foreign ministry spokesman said Monday, “In light of new circumstances, we will come up with new proposals to ensure the security of Chinese citizens and institutions overseas.”
To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.
That has eaten away at China’s long-standing policy of “noninterference” in the affairs of other countries.
The shift was dramatically apparent in 2011 when China deployed naval vessels and air force transport planes to pluck more than 35,000 Chinese nationals to safety from Libya as the country descended into civil war. This year, Chinese naval ships were again in action extracting Chinese nationals from war-torn Yemen. And China for the first time sent combat troops to join U.N. peacekeepers, adding them to forces in South Sudan after getting an agreement that the U.N.’s mandate there would include protection of Chinese oil installations. Previously, China’s extensive contribution to U.N. peacekeeping had been mainly in logistics and other support functions….(read more)