China's Relations with Central Asian States and Problems with Terrorism
Report for Congress
China’s Relations with Central Asian States
and Problems with Terrorism
Updated October 7, 2002
Dewardric L. McNeal
Foreign Affairs Analyst
Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division
Specialist in Asian Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
China’s Relations with Central Asian States and
Problems with Terrorism
For years, the United States has actively engaged in efforts to improve human
rights conditions in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The U.S. Congress has
passed numerous pieces of legislation that censure, and in many cases impose
sanctions against, the PRC for violations of human rights and religious freedoms.
But some analysts maintain that the events of September 11, 2001, have complicated
the situation for U.S. policymakers who seek to pressure the Chinese government to
improve its human rights record. These complications relate particularly to China’s
northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and its large population
of Uighur Muslims. Various reports allege that some Uighur groups are engaged in
“terrorist” activity in Xinjiang and throughout Central Asia–including Afghanistan.
The Chinese government has been making such claims since the later 1990s, and
Chinese officials have launched a series of crackdowns against Muslim activists in
the XUAR. Human rights groups complain that the PRC is using the international
campaign against terrorism as a pretext to intensify its crackdowns on Uighurs in the
Analysts point out that a number of Uighur groups are reportedly associated
with such elements as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Jamaat-
i-Islami, and Tableegi Jamaat, groups that are allegedly involved in subversive
activities throughout Central Asia. Additionally, various reports suggest that links
exist between the Al-Qaeda/Taliban forces and some Uighurs and other Central
Asian groups operating in China and Central Asia. These alleged linkages have been
a major source of consternation among Chinese and Central Asian officials, who
argue that the Taliban movement in Afghanistan has helped to bring about a rise in
radical Islamic militancy and greater instability in the region.
Additionally, some analysts point out that the September 11 attacks adversely
affected plans of the newly formed regional organization known as the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization (SCO) made up of China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan,
Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Some analysts thought that the SCO had the potential
to be a vital player in the post-Taliban regional security and rebuilding arrangement,
especially since the SCO member states have been combating terrorism, extremism,
and separatism (the so-called “three-evil forces”) in Central Asia and Xinjiang during
the past few years. However, the United States has seized the initiative on this issue
and has formed a global coalition including key SCO member states. This suggests
that in the interim, at least, China and the SCO, may play a reduced role in the region
as long as the US-led coalition is engaged in the anti-terrorist war.
On August 26, 2002, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage made a
surprise and controversial announcement that the United States would now consider
the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a terrorist group. Although Chinese
officials were pleased with the U.S. decision, human rights groups and some U.S.
allies publicly questioned the move, alleging that a hidden U.S. motivation in making
the announcement was to garner Chinese support in the U.N. Security Council for the
U.S. anti-Iraq campaign.
Background and Overview...........................................2
U.S. Policy Implications............................................4
History and Composition of Uighur Movement..........................6
Armed Uighur Groups Alleged to be Active in Xinjiang...............8
Other Extremist Groups and the Uighur Opposition..................12
Non-Violent Uighur Groups and Associations......................14
Human Rights Issues In Xinjiang....................................14
Shanghai Cooperation Organization..................................15
SCO and the Aftermath of September 11..........................16
The New ‘Great Game’....................................16
Bilateral versus Multilateral Cooperation......................18
This report was originally written by Dewardric L. McNeal. It has been updated to
reflect current events by Kerry Dumbaugh, Specialist in Asian Affairs.
China’s Relations with Central Asian States
and Problems with Terrorism
This report provides an overview of the Muslim separatist movement in China’s
northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China’s attempts to stifle
activities which it considers terrorism, and implications for U.S. policy. Some
analysts suggest that the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism may make it difficult
to pressure the Chinese government on human rights and religious freedoms,
particularly as they relate to Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
China also has reportedly stepped up its suppression of Uighur Muslims
following the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. A policy question
for the United States is how to balance the anti-terrorist campaign with traditional
concerns over human rights in China’s western region, and how to react should
Beijing use the threat of terrorism to abrogate rights of autonomy in Xinjiang as
provided for in China’s constitution.
In the past, the United States had warned Chinese officials that the anti-terror
campaign should not be used to suppress legitimate political dissent among China’s
own Muslim populations. In as visit to Beijing in December 2001, for instance, the
State Department’s top counter-terrorism expert, Francis X. Taylor, said that
Washington did not believe Muslim separatists in China who supported an
independent East Turkestan were part of the global anti-terror network.
But on August 26, 2002, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage made
a surprise announcement that the United States had added the East Turkestan Islamic
Movement (ETIM) to its list of terrorist groups. On August 28, 2002, officials at the
U.S. Embassy in Beijing further announced they had evidence that the ETIM was
plotting a terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. On
September 11, 2002, the United Nations announced that, at the request of both the
United States and China, it was placing the ETIM on a U.N. list of terrorist
organizations, requiring that all U.N. members freeze the group’s financial assets and
ban its members from entry. The unexpected U.S. decision to designate a Uighur
group as a terrorist organization has been questioned by some U.S. European allies
who have suggested that it appeared to be a trade-off for PRC support in the U.N.
Security Council for the U.S. campaign against Iraq.
Background and Overview
Over one hundred years after Qing Dynasty troops gained control over East1
Turkestan, currently known as Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, some ethnic
Uighurs in Xinjiang continue to aspire to reestablish sovereignty over their
homeland. Uighurs did briefly establish the Republic of East Turkestan during the
Chinese civil war (1945-1949), but self-rule came to an abrupt end when Communist
troops entered Xinjiang in 1949. The Chinese government immediately began to
consolidate its control over Xinjiang by sending retired ethnic Han Chinese soldiers
into Xinjiang to form new units called “Production and Construction” Corps
(Bingtuan).2 The Chinese government has continued to resettle the Xinjiang area
with ethnic Han Chinese migrants and with other ethnic minority groups. This has
exacerbated tensions with the Uighurs, who have witnessed the Han population in
Xinjiang, once a mere 6 to 7 percent, balloon to approximately 40 to 45 percent of
Xinjiang’s total population.3
Fearing continued cultural marginalization and religious persecution, Uighurs
have become increasingly virulent in their protests against Chinese rule in Xinjiang.
As a result of these protests and increased violence, in April 1996 the PRC
government launched a series of new crackdowns and a controversial “Strike Hard”
(Yan Da) campaign to reestablish order in Xinjiang. This has resulted in a number4
of Uighur leaders being killed, jailed, or driven into exile.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the establishment of independent
states by the former Soviet Central Asian republics, encouraged some Uighurs in
their aspirations to reestablish an independent homeland. According to some analysts
familiar with the region, many Uighurs in Xinjiang felt that having their own state5
“cuts to the core of their ethnic identity and ultimate survival as a culture.”
Furthermore, other minorities in Xinjiang, the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and
Mongols, all can look to sovereign states that border China, as pillars of “cultural
and ethnic pride.”6 However, with no real chance to see their own dream of an
independent homeland become a reality because of the PRC government’s strong
1 Qing Dynasty troops after encountering strong resistance to Uighur fighters established its
rule in 1884 and renamed East Turkestan, Xinjiang, which means “new frontier” or “new
2 See Human Rights Watch Report, Xinjiang, China’s Restive Northwest, 1998.
3 See People’s Republic of China, Year 2000 Census.
4 See Uyghuramerican.org media reports, “ Central Asia: Uighurs Say States Yield To
Chinese,” by Jean-Christopher Peuch,
[http://www.uyghuramerican.org/ me diar eports/2001/cenasiayi eldtoCHin.html ].
5 See Asia Week Inside Story China: Beijing vs. Islam, by Michael Winchester,
[ ht t p: / / www.asi a week.com/ a si aweek/ 97/ 1024/ i s 1.ht ml ] .
determination to retain control of Xinjiang at all cost, a number of underground
separatist groups began to spring up throughout Xinjiang and the Uighur diaspora.7
The PRC’s Xinjiang fears were compounded by a number of significant events
going on in Russia, Afghanistan, and Central Asia beginning in 1996. The Russians
were prosecuting a second war in the break-away republic of Chechnya. Tajikistan
was still suffering from the effects of its civil war. And the Uzbek government, led
by President Islam Karimov, was dealing with an increasing threat from Islamic
fundamentalists looking to establish a radical Islamic state in Uzbekistan. China
feared that all of these events, which involved “Islamic fundamentalist” elements,
would spread to Xinjiang and radicalize the Uighur groups in Xinjiang. However,
the one event that would prove the most problematic to China and the entire Central
Asian region was the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan to the Taliban militia in September
The Taliban movement has been accused by leaders in Beijing and secular
leaders throughout Central Asia of spreading its radical views of Islam into many
parts of Central and South Asia, leading in some cases to a rise of “Islamic
fundamentalist” groups and activity, including bombing, assassinations, and other
acts of terror and subversion. In particular, China and the Central Asian states over
the years have charged that the Taliban and their close associate, Osama bin Laden,
have been funding, arming, and training a number of Uighurs, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, and
Uzbeks in camps located inside Afghanistan.9
In 1996, China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan formed a group
known as the “Shanghai-Five” to serve as a bulwark against the spread of Islamic
fundamentalist subversion. It was initially designed to be an informal grouping to
discuss ways to resolve old border disputes and fortify common borders against
terrorist and separatist activity. However, the group’s members soon decided they
needed to cooperate more thoroughly to deal with what they called the “three evil
forces”–terrorism, separatism, and extremism.10 In the summer of 2001, the
Shanghai-Five admitted Uzbekistan into the organization and established a
permanent regional group called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The
new organization approved two joint communiques that stressed its intentions to
cooperate on combating terrorism and to establish an anti-terrorist center in Bishkek,
However, the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001
appear to have caused an unintended halt to a number of the SCO plans, at least for
the near term. Shortly after the September attacks, the United States made counter
terrorism its number one priority. Some China and Central Asian analysts indicate
7 The Scotsman, Uighurs warn of return to terror, by Damien McElroy, May 31, 2000.
8 See transcripts from BBC News Report: Who Are the Taleban, December 20, 2000.
9 BBC Monitoring Central Asia, “Central Asians, Uighurs training in Pakistan, Afghanistan
for “subversive” acts,” July, 11, 2000.
10 See Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies article No. 521, Shanghai Five: Emerging
Foreign Policy Dimensions, by P.A. Mathew, July 15, 2001.
that now that the United States is taking on global terrorism, particularly in the
Central Asian region, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is beginning to feel a
bit “overshadowed” and marginalized.11 Surprisingly to some, Russia, Tajikistan,
Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan are all providing robust support for the
U.S.-led counter-terrorism effort. Analysts say that with the United States now
“monopolizing” the agenda on anti-terrorism in the region, the Chinese are starting
to fear that a major component of their Central Asian geopolitical strategy is being
U.S. Policy Implications
The attacks on September 11, 2001 and the U.S.-led retaliation in Afghanistan
has wide-ranging policy implications for U.S. China policy in the short term, and
may cause a number of policy shifts and challenges in the long term. One of the most
difficult challenges is how the United States will balance its need to create a broad-
based multi-state coalition to fight against terrorism with traditional American
obligations to protect and defend religious freedoms and human rights. According
to a number of analysts, China, Russia, and the Central Asian states, in exchange for
lending support and cooperation to the U.S. in the fight against global terrorism, may
want “support for their campaigns against groups they view as terrorists,” and a
reduction in the level of criticism over what the United States views as human rights
abuses.13 This may anger religious and human rights activists, who may view it as
capitulation of American values and principles. Although it may be important to
review and reformulate those policies to make it easier to fulfill the requirements and
goals of a multi-state coalition, some policy-makers argue that an equally important
consideration for U.S. policymakers pursuing the campaign against terrorism is
ensuring that the terrorism campaign does not give a blank check to authoritarian
regimes pursuing their own domestic agendas of civil, political, and religious
repression. There is also the question of whether the U.S.-led campaign against
international terrorism should apply to groups seeking religious and political rights
in authoritarian countries. On the one hand, it may appear that some Uighurs’ ties
with extremist groups could justify a crackdown by Beijing similar to that occurring
in other countries. On the other hand, the political unrest by some Uighurs could be
a logical response to suppression of their constitutional rights and the settlement of
traditional Uighur lands by ethnic Chinese. The policy dilemma for the United
States, therefore is the degree to which it may decline to react to possible human
rights violations against Uighurs in Xinjiang in return for Chinese cooperation in the
campaign against terrorism.
In the months leading up to the events of September 11, 2001, the United States
and China seemed headed toward becoming “strategic competitors”or even
11 Wall Street Journal, “Chinese Goals Take A Backseat As U.S. Rises To The Fore In
Asia,” by Andrew Higgins and Charles Hutzler, October 19, 2001.
13 South China Morning Post, “Beijing Moscow support Afghan coalition government.”
October 11, 2001.
adversaries. Before September 11, 2001, Sino-U.S. relations were plagued by a
number of controversial issues such as national missile defense, U.S. weapons sales
to Taiwan, the EP-3 spy plane collision, Chinese missile exports to Pakistan and
elsewhere, and continued criticisms over China’s violations of human rights and
religious freedoms. But the tragedy of September 11, 2001, seemed to have pushed
Sino-US relations in a different direction. The Chinese began to stress a common
interest in combating terrorism, and U.S. policy makers began building a broad-based
multinational coalition against terrorism that would include the PRC. Some see the
anti-terrorism campaign as a new potential framework for a more constructive and
Despite this new cooperative environment and concessions that some in the
foreign policy establishment consider as necessary to form the multi-state coalition
against terrorism, the Bush Administration has also shown a willingness to stress the
values and principles of human rights and religious freedoms, particularly with regard
to China. Although the United States has lifted some sanctions against nations that
are cooperating in the war on terrorism (e.g., Pakistan), neither the Bush
Administration nor Congress, which has oversight authority on the waiving of
sanctions placed on the PRC, has shown an inclination toward extending a waiver of
any existing sanctions placed on the PRC.14
China reportedly expects the United States to moderate criticisms over the
PRC’s handling of Uighur separatism in Xinjiang. However, at the APEC Summit
in Shanghai, in October 2001, President Bush made a statement that was interpreted
as a strong reminder that the U.S. does not approve of China’s policies toward ethnic
minorities and does not intend to forgo its responsibilities to support human rights
and religious freedoms. Bush stated that the Chinese should not attempt to use the
war on terrorism as an “excuse to persecute minorities.”15 China nevertheless, insists
that there are a number of Uighur groups that are actively involved in cross border
“terrorism” and that it has the right to combat what it views as “terrorism” within and
around its borders.
Also China and the SCO are being overshadowed by the U.S. presence and
leadership in Central Asia at the moment, but Beijing may attempt to reassert its
influence as a power broker in the region when the fighting in Afghanistan has died
down by revitalizing the SCO mechanism. However, the terrorist attacks on
September 11, 2001 and the U.S.-led retaliation has caused a range of geopolitical
realignments among nations in Central Asia, most notably among the member states
of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. After the attacks on the United States,
14 There are a number of existing sanctions contained in Section 902 of P.L. 101-246, put
in place after the Tiananmen crackdown, which ban the sale and export of a number of items
to China, such as criminal detection and crowd control instruments, munitions including
helicopters and helicopter parts, and satellites for launch by Chinese launch vehicles.
Shortly after the September 11 attacks, several media reports hinted that in exchange for
Chinese support and cooperation in the war on terrorism, some of these sanctions would be
eased or dropped.
15 The Washington Post, “China Vows To Help in Terror Fight,” by Mike Allen and Philip
P. Pan, October 19, 2001.
a number of SCO members immediately pledged full support and cooperation to the
United States. This apparent geopolitical realignment, combined with the possibility
of long-term U.S. troop deployment in Central Asia, may raise concerns among the
military and political elites in Beijing that the United States is engaged in a strategy
of long term “containment”or “encirclement” of China on both its eastern and
western borders. Analysts caution that the PRC has not lost its resolve to extend its
sphere of influence into Central Asia nor has it abandoned its geopolitical strategy
of using the SCO as its primary vehicle to achieve this goal. This could mean an
increase in the possibilities for competition between China and the United States over
influence in Central Asia.
History and Composition of Uighur Movement
By the 14th century, ethnic Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people from Central Asia
were fully converted followers of Islam. They lived in ancient cities of great wealth
and learning like Tashkent, in modern day Uzbekistan, and Kashgar in modern day
Xinjiang, Western China. However, between the mid-1700’s and the mid-1800’s
China conquered most of the Uighur homeland. The ethnic Manchu of Northern16
China and Czarist Russian empires annexed the entire region of Central Asia by the
late 1800’s. Turkic-speaking peoples from West and East Turkestan were eventually
brought under the sovereignty of these two empires. Although the Uighurs
reestablished East Turkestan just after World War II, Chinese Communist forces
reincorporated East Turkestan into China at the end of the Chinese civil war, and
East Turkestan became known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The
name was supposed to reflect the large degree of autonomy granted by the PRC to
Uighurs in the constitution. However, some Uighurs allege that the name is only
symbolic and that little autonomy and rights are enjoyed by Uighurs presently.
In 1991, Central Asian Muslims such as the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmen,
and Krgyz,–ethnic groups of the former Soviet republics–finally won their
independence and set up sovereign states. For the first time in several hundred years
they governed their own independent homelands. Although the Uighurs did not gain
independence like their Central Asian cousins, some saw the sovereignty gains of the
newly independent states of Cental Asia as a source of inspiration for their own
struggle and as a safety zone from which to organize an independence movement.
Analysts note that the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region shares a relatively
porous border with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and
Afghanistan,17and according to a number of reports these states have increasingly
16 The Manchu ethnic group launched the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) after overthrowing the
ethnic Han Chinese of the Ming Dynasty. It was the Manchus that first incorporated Uighur
areas in Central Asia and later brutally repressed a rebellion in the late 1800’s.
17 Xinjiang Autonomous Region shares a 5,000km border with the five states mentioned
above, roughly 1,500km of the border has Turkic-speaking peoples on both sides.
become a source of ideology, information gathering, arms procurement, and training
for some Uighur groups in their struggle against PRC rule.18
Although the Uighur opposition to Chinese rule has existed in many forms
throughout history, it has become more violent in recent years. Although some
Uighurs have been trying to attain independence for a number of years, they have
remained largely out of the view of mainstream media and have gained relatively
little support from the international community. Some analysts argue that this is
because the Uighur community lacks a single charismatic leader like Tibet’s Dalai
Lama, and because the Uighur resistance groups are largely fractured and
disorganized, and lack the ability to gain the full attention of key states such as
Britain and the United States.19 Other analysts and human rights activists argue that
the reason that the Uighur resistance movement has trouble gaining robust support
and international attention is because it lacks a well funded lobby effort such as that
of Tibet and Taiwan for advocating its cause in the West. These analysts point out
that Uighurs are generally extremely poor and geographically isolated in a corner of
the world that is largely forgotten and overwhelmingly populated by Muslims.20
Analysts also argue that Beijing has kept international attention away from the
Uighur resistance movement by severely restricting access to Xinjiang Uighur
Autonomous Region.21 According to these analysts, the PRC did not want to cast any
light on the “brutal tactics” that police have used to stamp out the resistance to
However, the events of September 11, 2001 have turned the attention of many
analysts and journalists to the Uighur struggle. In particular, there appears to be
interest in a number of reports about alleged links between some Uighur groups and
the radical Islamic elements in Central Asia. Specifically, analysts have focused on
the allegations that linkages exist between Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network
and some Uighur groups throughout Central Asia. In a November 2001 briefing, PRC
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao, listed more than 10 separate
organizations based in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Xinjiang that he accused of
“conducting terrorist violence” in Xinjiang and other parts of China.23
18 Center for Computational Science at the University of Kentucky, “Uighurs’ Independence
is Important to the Survival of Their People,” by Gwynne Dyer,
[ h t t p : / / www.c c s .uky. e du/ ~ r a khi m/ doc _f i l e s / gwyn e _dye r .ht ml ] .
19 Dialog.com, “International Data Reference on Terrorist, Guerilla and Insurgent Groups-
Asia, Indo China and the Pacific Rim,” May 1999,
[http://www.dialog.com/info/home/austra lia/fastways/terrorism_in_china.html ].
20 Christian Science Monitor, “Roots of a Race Riot,” by Robert Marquand, July 18, 2001.
21 The Wall Street Journal, “China Provides Extensive Briefing On Separatists in Xinjiang,”
by Charles Hutzler, November 15, 2001.
Armed Uighur Groups Alleged to be Active in Xinjiang
A number of armed Uighur groups are believed to be active in the opposition
to what they view as Chinese “occupation” of East Turkestan. Some of these groups
advocate total separation from China and have resorted to violence against the PRC
over the last several years. In late 1990, the level of violence in Xinjiang began to
increase when a small uprising erupted in Baren, a town near Kashgar.24 The PRC
government cracked down swiftly and harshly, and local security forces were given
wide ranging power to root out any element that “harms national unity” and “the
solidarity of ethnic groups or social stability.”25 The Baren uprising, reportedly led
by Abdul Kasim, laid the foundation for an underground armed struggle against the
Chinese in Xinjiang. In 1995, PRC security forces reportedly found a stowaway
clutch of some 4,000 sticks of dynamite, 600 guns with ammunition, and 3,000kg of
explosives.26 In April 1996 Chinese security forces arrested more than 1,700
suspected “terrorists.” One month later a high ranking official of the Xinjiang
Peoples Political Consultative Conference27 was assassinated, and a number of
bombings occurred along Chinese railroad lines.28 Uighur armed resistance groups
allegedly detonated three time bombs on buses in Urumqi on the day of Deng
Xiaoping’s funeral. By late 1998, China became concerned that the violence in
Xinjiang was spiraling out of control. Beijing began to pressure the Central Asian
states to assist with efforts to identify groups and leaders throughout the Diaspora.
Beijing also insisted that any Xinjiang Uighur found outside Xinjiang be extradited
to the PRC, and that all outside sources of assistance and shelter for the Xinjiang-
based Uighur movement be cut off.
The PRC has accused a number of Xinjiang based Uighur groups of committing
“terrorist” acts in Xinjiang and other parts of China and Central Asia. U.S. officials
say they have received independent information from a broad array of sources since
the terrorist attacks of September 11 which appears to corroborate some of the PRC
claims. Solid information about these groups remains elusive and often confusing.
East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The ETIM also is referred to
as the East Turkistan Islamic Party. It is headed by Hasan Mahsum, who himself also
24 See Laogai Research Foundation Special Report, The World Bank and Chinese Military:
Ignorance– Incompetence– or Cover Up?,” April 4, 1996.
25 Dialog.com, “International Data Reference on Terrorist, Guerilla and Insurgent Groups–
Asia, Indo China and Pacific Rim, May 1999,
[www.dialog.com/info/home/australia /fastways/terrorism_in_china.html ].
27 The Political Consultative Conference an entity controlled by the Communist Party that
is made up of minority or non-Communist political parties. It has no real power and serves
no real political purpose such as being an opposition party to the Chinese Communist Party.
There are National Peoples Consultative Conference and several Provincial Political
Consultative Conferences in China.
28 Dialog.com, “International Data Reference on Terrorist, Guerilla and Insurgent Groups–
Asia, Indo China and Pacific Rim, May 1999,
[www.dialog.com/info/home/australia /fastways/terrorism_in_china.html ].
is known by other names. On August 26, 2002, Deputy Secretary of State Richard
Armitage announced that the United States now considered this group to be a
terrorist organization. Under the authority of section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224
of September 21, 2001, the Department of State determined that the ETIM “has
committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten
the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of
the United States.”29 While a listing under the 2001 Executive Order allows the U.S.
government to freeze the ETIM’s financial assets in the United States, it stops short
of classifying the ETIM as an official U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization (the so-
called “FTO list”) established by the Anti-Terrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of
1996 (P.L. 104-132), which carries more serious penalties and more extensive
restrictions. On August 28, 2002, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing further
announced they had evidence that the ETIM was plotting a terrorist bombing of the
U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The group was added to the website list of
the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on September 3, 2002. On September
11, 2002, the United Nations announced that, at the request of both the United States
and China, it was placing the ETIM on a U.N. list of terrorist organizations, requiring
that all U.N. members freeze the group’s financial assets and ban its members from
Prior to its August 2002 announcement, U.S. officials had drawn distinctions
between the global anti-terrorist campaign and political dissent among China’s own
Muslim populations. In a visit to Beijing in December 2001, for instance, the State
Department’s top counter-terrorism expert, Francis X. Taylor, said that Washington
did not believe Muslim separatists in China who supported an independent East
Turkestan were part of the global anti-terror network. The announcement that U.S.
officials now regarded the ETIM as a terrorist group is an apparent departure from
this prior U.S. position, and as such has generated some controversy.
The U.S. decision has been subject to criticism by both U.S. allies and human
rights groups. One unnamed European diplomat was quoted saying that “We are
concerned that the Americans are doing the Chinese a favor” as a trade-off for PRC
acquiescence in the U.N. Security Council for the U.S. campaign against Iraq.30
Uighur groups around the world and some American academics suggested, among
other things: that U.S. officials had offered little evidence of the group’s terrorist
involvement and little explanation as to why ETIM had been singled out from other
Uighur groups known to have terrorist links;31 that U.S. officials were simply
repeating accusations China had made earlier in 2002 about terrorism;32 and that the
U.S. action would lead the Chinese government to widen its crackdown in Xinjiang
to include broader segments of the Uighur ethnic minority. The U.S. Government
29 Federal Register, Vol. 67, No. 173, September 6, 2002, p. 57054.
30 DeYoung, Karen, “U.S. and China Ask U.N. to List Separatists as Terror Group,” in The
Washington Post, September 11, 2002, p. A13.
31 Eckholm, Eric, “U.S. Labeling of Group in China as Terrorist is Criticized,” in New York
Times, September 13, 2002, p. A6.
32 “‘East Turkistan’ Terrorist Forces Cannot Get Away With Impunity,” Office of the State
Council, January 21, 2002. [http://www.china.org.cn/english/2002/Jan/25582.htm]
has denied that its decision on ETIM’s status was motivated by concerns or views of
the Chinese government. U.S. officials have stated that the decision was only
reached after lengthy American research into repeated and various reports of ETIM
terrorist-links, and confirmations of those reports from a variety of independent
sources in Europe, Asia, and around the world. U.S. officials say they are confident
that a number of bombings in China and other violent events that have caused
civilian casualties can be attributed to ETIM actions.
In the wake of the U.S. decision on ETIM, PRC officials said they would
expand their ongoing crackdown against separatists and terrorists. On October 1,
2002, international news accounts reported that Chinese police had discovered a
major arsenal of illegally made guns, hand grenades, and other weapons in Xinjiang.
Later in October 2002, Beijing announced it would extend its anti-terror co-operation
network to countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and
in the European Community (EU).33 The PRC also chose October 2002 to hold its
first joint military exercises with a foreign power – Kyrgyzstan. The exercises were
designed to test the capabilities of the two countries to launch a coordinated rapid
response to a terrorist threat.
United Revolutionary Front of Eastern Turkistan (URFET). The
URFET is led by 77 year old Yusupbek Mukhlisi, also known as Modan Mukhlisi.
This group claims to have more than thirty armed units working in and around
Xinjiang, including expert bomb makers. Mukhlisi fled China in 1960, and for more
than thirty years he advocated peaceful resistence to what he calls “Chinese rule”34
over East Turkestan. However, this relatively moderate policy was disavowed in
March 1997 when the United National Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan and
two other Kazakhstan-based Uighur groups issued a joint declaration stating that they
were “taking up arms against Chinese oppression.”35 In a recent article published in
the Japan Times, Mukhlisi boasts of having a “well developed” movement in
Xinjiang and says that he has “twenty-two million Uighurs” ready to conduct armed
struggle against the Chinese. He claims to have “ties to several groups” across the
border in Kazakhstan.36
Organization for the Liberation of Uighurstan. Led by Ashir Vakhidi.
This group is said to be internally divided over many personal and political issues.
Reportedly these divisions include disagreement over whether to use East Turkestan
33 Ma, Josephine, “Beijing to extend anti-terror network,” in South China Morning Post,
September 23, 2002, p. 7.
34 Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty Online, “Kazakhstan: Exiled Uighurs Step Up Fight
Against Beijing, by Jeremy Bransten, 14 October 1997,
[ h t t p : www.r f e r l .or g/ nca/ f eat ur es/ 1997/ 10/ F.RU.971014135113.ht ml ] .
36 The Japan Times Online, “Fighting for independence in the shadow of a Goliath,” by
Russell Working, November 6, 2001,
[ ht t p: / / www.j a pant i mes.co.j p/ cgi -bi n/ ge t a r t i c l e .p15?eo20011106al .ht ml ] .
or Uighurstan as the name of a Uighur sovereign state.37 However, the group is
committed to armed struggle against Chinese “occupation” of the “Uighur
Wolves of Lop Nor. This group has not publicly listed its leader, but it is
reported to have claimed responsibility for a number of bombings on trains and for
several assassinations in Xinjiang. According to reports, this group released a
statement to Taiwan radio stating that all of its attacks are in response to “suppression
of pro-independence activism” of Uighurs in Xinjiang by Chinese government forces.
Additionally, following a Beijing bombing, this group revealed that the attack had
been planned by Uighur exiles in Kazakhstan and that more events would be planned.
Although there have been no incidents or threats against Chinese nuclear facilities,
some China watchers point out that the city of Lop Nor in Xinjiang Uighur
Autonomous Region, home of the “Wolves,” is also the site of one of China’s largest38
nuclear test sites.
Xinjiang Liberation Organization and Uighur Liberation
Organization (ULO). Reportedly active in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
According to some reports, they are responsible for the assassinations of Uighurs
who they viewed as “collaborators” with the PRC and Central Asian governments.39
There are also reports that Uighurs from this group are dispersed throughout the
region;40 and that the countries of Tajikistan, China, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and41
the Russian republic of Chechnya are home to ULO members.
Home of East Turkistan Youth. Sometimes referred to as “Xinjiang’s
Hamas,” this is a radical group thought to be committed to armed struggle against the
Chinese in Xinjiang. This group reportedly has over 2,000 members and allegedly
has undergone explosives training in camps inside Afghanistan.42
Free Turkistan Movement. Led by Uighur and reported “Islamic
fundamentalist” Abdul Kasim, this group led an uprising in April 1990 in the
Xinjiang town of Baren. Although figures vary, PRC officials report 22 people were
killed in the incident. The Baren incident touched off harsh crackdowns on religious
37 Dialogue.com, “International Data Reference on Terrorist, Guerilla and Insurgent Groups-
Asia, Indo China and the Pacific Rim, May 1999.
39 See stratfor.com, “Chinese Cleanup Targets Uighurs,” May 16, 2001,
[ ht t p: / / www.st r a t f or .com/ a si a/ comme nt ar y/ 0105162140.ht ml ] .
40 These reports from Strategic Forcasting Service, an analytical new service, are attributed
to Aziz Soltobaev, on the staff of the American University of Kyrgyzstan.
41 See Stratfor.com, “Chinese Cleanup Targets Uighurs,” May 16, 2001,
[ ht t p: / / www.st r a t f or .com/ a si a/ comme nt ar y/ 0105162140.ht ml ] .
42 Federation of American Scientist: Intelligence Resource Program, “ Uighur Militants:
Committee for Eastern Turkistan.”
activity throughout Xinjiang. Additionally, Chinese officials claim that the weapons
used in the Baren incident came from Afghan Mujahadeen.43
Other Extremist Groups and the Uighur Opposition
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is home to an estimated 10 million
Uighurs. According to some reports there are an additional 500,000 Uighurs in
“Western Turkestan,” which includes Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and
Turkmenistan, and another estimated 150,000 Uighurs in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,
Afghanistan, Western Europe, Turkey, and the United States.44 According to the
figures and information listed above, the Uighur Diaspora is surprisingly large and
spread throughout several countries. Chinese government officials and a number of
Western sources suggest that some of the groups in the Uighur Diaspora are linked
to extremist elements in the countries in which they reside. PRC officials allege that
these include links to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. On June 9, 2000, a
Bishkek journalist named Aleksandr Knyazev, stated what the Chinese government
has believed for several years, that “it is widely known” that “Uighurs are fighting
on the Taliban side” in the war in Afghanistan.45 Knyazev named several well known
groups, such as the Hizb-ut-Tahrir Party and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
as having trained and recruited Uighurs. He also stated that he had the opportunity
to meet and interview a Uighur captured by the Anti-Taliban forces in Northern
Afghanistan; the captured Uighur came from the small town of Aksu in Xinjiang.
According to comments made by the Uighur captive, he had received his training in
a camp near the Pakistani town of Peshwar.46
In another report, the Russian special envoy to Pakistan in September 2000,
pointed out that he had identified five camps in Pakistan used to train terrorists, and
that there is proof of Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Uighurs from China being
trained in those camps.47 According to other reports, some Uighur resistance groups
have ties to other groups listed below. This listing, however, does not imply that the
groups have significant, or even recognizable, influence on Uighurs living in China.
Tableeghi Jamaat. A Pakistani Islamic missionary organization that China
believes has supplied Uighurs with arms and recruited Uighurs to train and fight in
Afghanistan. In 1998, Krygyz authorities broke up a faction of this group led by a
Chinese-born Uighur called ‘Kasarli,’ showing that China and the Central Asian
states were beginning to cooperate on cracking down on the violent groups in Central
43 The Pioneer, “China Tries to quell the Xinjiang uprising, by Aditya Bhagat, February 27,
44 See Federation of American Scientist: Intelligence Resource Program, “Uighur militants:
Committee for Eastern Turkistan.”
45 BBC Monitoring Central Asia, “Central Asians, Uighurs training in Pakistan, Afghanistan
for “subversive” acts,” July 11, 2000.
47 BBC Monitoring South Asia, “Putin envoy says Afghan Taliban training Uighurs,
Chechens, Central Asians,” September 27, 2000.
Asia and Xinjiang.48 This group has also caused some difficulty in the Chinese-
Pakistani relationship over the last couple of years. According to reports that
appeared in the ITAR-TASS Russian news agency and Reuters news service in
February of 1997, the Chinese government accused this group, and indirectly the
Pakistani government, of distributing religious materials in Xinjiang and with being
“actively involved” in violence and unrest in Xinjiang.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir. (Islamic Revival). This group reportedly has a number of cells
throughout Central Asia. According to some reports, the goal of this group is to
create a “Caliphate” or independent state within the territory that includes parts of49
China’s Xinjiang, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Committee for Eastern Turkistan Based in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, this group was
originally formed by Uighur Guerillas who fought against the Peoples Liberation50
Army from 1944-1949.
Jamaat-i-Islami. Pakistan’s largest Islamic political party, and is led by Qazi
Hussain Ahmad. Several reports indicate that a number of Uighurs, some say
hundreds, have been recruited by Jamaat-i-Islami and trained by the Afghan
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Its military wing is led by Juma
Namangani, who has been recently identified as a top Lieutenant to bin Laden and
is accused by many Central Asian states and China of actively recruiting and training
a number of Uighurs in the IMU’s paramilitary centers in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif,
Northern Afghanistan. In addition to being linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the
IMU has also been linked to Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The IMU was one of three groups, in
addition to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, named in U.S. President George Bush’s
address before a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001. Although not
independently confirmed, Namangani was reportedly killed in late November 2001,
during a battle with the anti-Taliban forces to retain control over Mazar-e-Sharif.
Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda Organization. Prior to the U.S.-led
campaign in Afghanistan, reports suggested that some 6,000 to 7,000 foreign fighters
and guerillas were being trained in Afghanistan. These mercenaries reportedly
included Pakistanis, Kyrgyzs, Arabs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, and Uighurs from
Xinjiang and other parts of the Uighur Diaspora. Allegedly, most of these foreign
mercenaries were funded and trained by Osama bin-Laden’s Al-Qaeda organization
in Afghanistan. Since the routing of the Taliban, U.S. officials have confirmed that
48 Dialogue.com, “International Data Reference on Terrorist, Guerilla and Insurgent Groups-
Asia, Indo China and the Pacific Rim, May 1999.
49 See Uyghuramerican.org, “Central Asia: Uighurs Say States Yield To Chinese,” by Jean-
Christophe Peuch, March 29, 2001.
50 See Federation of American Scientists: Intelligence Resource Program, “Uighur militants
Committee for East Turkistan.”
51 The Pioneer, “China tries to quell the Xinjiang uprising,” by Aditya Bhagat, February 27,
some Uighurs from China were among those taken prisoner by allied forces in
Non-Violent Uighur Groups and Associations
A number of Uighur groups and individuals advocate only a modicum of
autonomy from the PRC. They also claim to want the PRC to only honor its
promises of autonomy for minorities as presented in the Chinese Constitution. Some
other Uighur groups within Xinjiang and abroad seek independence from the PRC,
but seek it through non-violent political activities. For example, there are “Uighur
opposition-in-exile” groups in countries such as the United States, Germany, and
Turkey. They belong to groups such as the Uyghur American Association and the
East Turkestan National Congress, which is a federation of a number of Uighur
associations. Some of these non-violent groups, such as the Regional Uighur
Organization, also are based in Central Asia.52 In addition to these groups and
associations, Uighur news groups and media sources are dedicated to reporting on the
situation of Uighurs in Xinjiang. For example, the East Turkestan Information
Bulletin, published by the East Turkestan Union in Europe (ETUE), a Munich based
organization, says that its mission is to “disseminate objective current information
on the people, culture and civilization of Eastern Turkestan and to provide a forum
for discussion on a wide range of topics and complex issues.”53 According to some
analysts, most of these groups and associations have “consistently advocated peaceful
means” to gain their independence from the PRC.
Human Rights Issues In Xinjiang
Although for a number of years the PRC government has claimed that some
Uighur groups are linked to terrorist groups in Central Asia, until recently the
allegations were viewed by many in the West as mere “propaganda”or as an excuse
to persecute political dissidents in Xinjiang. According to some analysts and rights
activists, one reason that Chinese allegations against Uighurs have been so highly
disregarded by many in the West is that Beijing is prone to group all Uighurs into the
“terrorist” category. In the wake of September 11, however, a noted increase was
reported in the number of accounts by outside sources about Uighur violence in
Xinjiang, and some of the accounts make claims similar to those that have been made
by the PRC over the past five years.
However, since the terrorist attacks on the United States, a number of
international Uighur groups and activists have been concerned that as the U.S.
prosecutes the war on terrorism, the Uighur cause will be viewed in a new
unfavorable light by the international community. Uighur activists fear that Chinese
complaints about terrorism are becoming more accepted in the West. In a recent
interview with the Washington Post, imprisoned Uighur businesswoman Rebiya
52 See Human Rights Watch Backgrounder, China: Human Rights Concerns in Xinjiang,
October 11, 2001.
53 See East Turkestan Information Bulletin, [http://www.caccp.org/et/etib3_5.html#1].
Kadeer’s son expressed his concerns that the U.S. will “weaken” its support for
human rights among China’s minority populations, “especially the Turkic speaking,
Uighur Muslims” of Xinjiang.54
According to Turdi Ghoja of the Uyghur American Association, the PRC is
taking “advantage of the global war on terrorism” to indulge in “killing, torturing,
and imprisoning” Uighurs in Xinjiang “without causing too much criticism from the
international community.”55 Recently, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mary Robinson in a meeting with PRC leaders, stressed that the war on terrorism
“must not infringe on the human rights of China’s Muslims.” Robinson told PRC
officials that since the September 11 attacks, her office has seen a rise in allegations
of “summary executions, imprisonment, and torture” of Uighurs, which is considered
a serious violation of the principles embodied in the United Nations Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. China is
a signatory of both documents.56
Additionally, China has drawn criticism from a number of Uighurs and human
rights advocates because it “consistently fails” to live up to its own constitutional
provisions governing autonomous regions.57 For example, Amnesty International
cites several instances of Uighurs being detained “merely for being relatives or
friends of political prisoners or fugitives,” or they say Uighurs could be detained and
held without charge for a number of months, just for rousing suspicions that they are
involved in acts deemed harmful to the national security of the state.58 Chinese Vice
Premier Qian Qichen denies these allegations and insists that “China strictly
distinguishes the separatists from the rest of the 10 million Chinese Muslims in the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization
On June 15, 2001, in Shanghai, the heads of states of China, Russia,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan (Kirghizia), Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, formerly known as
54 Washington Post, “Uighur Activist Back U.S. but Worry Their Cause Will Suffer,” by
John Pomfret, October 13, 2001.
55 See National Review Online’s Guest Comment, “Meanwhile, In China: On Persecution
of Muslims, Christians, and the Falun Gong,” by Ann Noonan (Laogai Research
Foundation), November 9, 2001.
56 Los Angeles Times, “U.N. Voices Concern Over Rise in Alleged Abuse of Chinese
Muslims,” by Anthony Kuhn, November 10, 2001.
57 See Chinese Constitution Section VI: Sections 112-122 The Origins of Self Government
of National and Autonomous Areas and Chapter Two: The Fundamental Rights and Duties
of Citizens, with particular emphasis being placed on Articles 35, 36, and 37.
58 See AmnestyInternationalOn-line,”Peoples Republic of China Uighurs arbitrarily
detained and tortured,” February 4,1999,
[ h t t p : / / www.web.amn est y.or g/ ai .nsf / pr i n t / ASA170051999?OpenDocume nt ] .
the “Shanghai Five” and later the “Shanghai Forum,” released a joint-press
communique describing what they called their intention to “raise the Shanghai Five
to a higher level” and “build a regional organization of multilateral cooperation
covering various fields.”60 This joint communique announced that the new regional
organization would be called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The
establishment of the SCO, largely spearheaded by the Chinese, is seen by many
observers as part of a security strategy to prevent Kazakh or Uyghur separatists from
using Central Asian states as a safety zone to plot separatist activities in Xinjiang.
It is also seen by some analysts as an organization that the Chinese have used to
spread their sphere of influence, both economic and geopolitical, throughout Central
SCO and the Aftermath of September 11
In the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in September 2001,
China has reportedly become increasingly concerned that its strategy for expanding
its presence and influence in the Central Asian region through the SCO mechanism
is in jeopardy.61 They point out that the U.S. efforts to build and lead an international
coalition against terrorism, particularly in Central Asia, have been swift and effective.
The U.S. appears to have completely seized the initiative from the newly formed
SCO regional grouping, and has provided SCO members with an unanticipated
alternative for addressing the issue of regional terrorism.62 Indeed, the willingness
and level at which a number of SCO member states have offered their support and
cooperation to the United States is disturbing to a number of Beijing’s elites. Several
western diplomats and Asia specialists note that many in Beijing are deeply
concerned that Washington could so quickly project its power into Central Asia and
even develop close working relations with China’s closest ally in the region,
The New ‘Great Game’. The PRC’s reported plans to expand its influence
throughout Central Asia may be put on hold because of rapidly unfolding events in
the region. However, prior to September 2001, it appeared that China was well on
its way to establishing a powerful presence in Central Asia. According to some
western analysts, by the Spring of 2000, China and Russia both seemed poised to
take advantage of what was viewed by the Central Asian states as U.S. indifference
toward the region. As an example of the latter, analysts point to former Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright’s “whirl-wind” tour of the region in 2000. In an
unsuccessful attempt to address the pleas from the governments of Uzbekistan,
Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan for security assistance, the U.S. offered a mere $16
60 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific, “China: Press communique of Shanghai summit,” June 16,
61 Wall Street Journal, “China Worries That Rising U.S. Influence In Central Asia Could
Harm Its Interests,” by Charles Hutzler, September 24, 2001.
63 The Christian Science Monitor, “China’s new balancing act,” by Robert Marquard,
November 8, 2001.
million dollars of combined assistance for all three states.64 They reportedly
considered Washington’s $16 million dollar offer a “declaration of disinterest” in the
region and its security concerns.65 Analysts argue that this sent an immediate signal
to China that the time was ripe to capitalize on Washington’s perceived
“ambivalence” toward the region.
Although the United States had delivered around $1.5 billion in aid to the region
between 1992 and 1998, this assistance was accompanied by pressure on the Central
Asian states to establish pluralistic and democratic societies. On the other hand, the
Central Asian states were more concerned about security and consolidation of their
secular governments in the wake of increased “Islamic fundamentalism” than they
were with democracy and pluralism in their societies.66 China, which was much less
concerned about democracy and pluralism, saw an opportunity. For example, China
provided military and technical aid to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
China also increased trade and economic ties with most of its western neighbors,
hoping to ensure access to valuable Central Asian oil and natural gas resources.67
Additionally, Beijing was using the SCO to develop closer ties to Moscow than it had
enjoyed at any other time since the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1960’s. Most of these
relationships were further enhanced by the signing of the Declaration of the
Establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Shanghai Covenant on
the Suppression of Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism, and the Sino-Russian
Friendship Pact, signed this past summer in Moscow.68 An important component of
this process was the development of a potential Sino-Russian counter-weight to
closer ties between Russia and the United States. This potentially significant gain for
China was undermined by the geopolitical and policy shifts following the September
11 attacks. At the same time, many in China believe that heightened U.S. awareness
of possible threats posed by Islamic fundamentalist groups could serve Chinese
However, since September 11, the eagerness of some member states to assist the
United States bilaterally in the war on terrorism raises a number of questions about
the future of the SCO and China’s plans for spreading its influence and presence in
the region. For example, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, all key members
of the SCO and recipients of Chinese security and technical assistance, have offered
65 The Wall Street Journal Europe, “Shanghai Five: The ‘Great Game’ Returns,” August 23,
67 See Central Asian Caucus: Analyst, “Did Putin Shanghai Bush?,” by Robert M. Cutler,
July 4, 2001.
68 The Christian Science Monitor, “China’s new balancing act,” by Robert Marquand,
November 8, 2001.
69 On December 6, 2001, while meeting with terrorism officials in Beijing, Francis X.
Taylor, the U.S. State Department’s top counter terrorism official, noted that some Chinese
Muslims had fought for Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. However, Taylor stressed that
Washington did not support the PRC’s insistence that Muslim separatists in China’s
northwest are a part of a global fundamentalist terror threat.
their broad support to the U.S. efforts to fight global terrorism, and each state appears
to have pushed its own domestic interests and agenda over those of the SCO.70
Bilateral versus Multilateral Cooperation. The absence of the SCO as
a regional player in the war against terrorism has surprised a number of China
watchers, who believed that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization had, on paper
at least, a number of options that it could have offered the United States to assist in
the war on terrorism. Some analysts argue that the SCO had been involved in the
fight against “terrorism” and what it calls the “three-evils forces” in the Central Asian
region since1996 and could have used this collective experience and its new anti-
terrorist center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to offer multilateral regional support to the
war on terrorism. Instead, it appears as though the multilateral SCO option has been
put on hold as each state is offering bilateral support to Washington and possibly
looking to gain military and security aid along with other support.
70 The Wall Street Journal Europe, “Shanghai Five: ‘Great Game’ Returns, by Ilan Berman,
August 23, 2001.