On January 13, the Washington Times published an article written by Bill Gertz, a national security columnist for the Washington Times and senior editor at the Washington Free Beacon, saying China may join the war against the Islamic State.
The author cites defense officials as a source. According to the article, Beijing is said to be concerned about the growing number of Chinese-origin terrorists who have joined the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS.
«The real question is whose side will they be on», said one defense official familiar with internal discussion of the Chinese military role.
Rather than cooperating with the US-led military coalition, the Chinese military is more likely to join forces with Russia’s military, currently engaged in a large-scale bombing campaign in Syria, the article says. China is said to be concerned that the Islamic State is moving into western China, specifically Xinjiang province, where Muslim Uighurs in the past have joined Islamist terrorist groups like Islamic State rival al-Qaeda.
Islamic State militants issued a digital recording last December calling on China’s Uighurs to take up arms and join the Islamic State in the territory under ISIS control in Syria and Iraq.
Before that, the Islamic State’s leader, the cleric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released a recording in July 2014 in which he named China as one of many countries in which «Muslims’ rights are forcibly seized».
Speaking of the Syrian crisis, China's foreign minister Wang Yi said at the UN Security Council session in November, 2015: «The world cannot afford to stand by and look on with folded arms, but must also not arbitrarily interfere».
He added that nations should stand united against "violent extremist ideology". China has also shown solidarity with Syria, joining Russia in vetoing UN proposals against Bashar al-Assad.
Beijing announced new counterterrorism regulations in December that permit overseas activities. On January 13, China released a government paper (The Arab Policy Paper) calling for closer defense and military cooperation against terrorism in the Arab world.
In theory, China can launch J-15 warplanes from an aircraft carrier for attacks on Islamic State militants.
The news makes spring to mind the meeting of the Deputy Secretaries of Security Councils of the Collective Security Treaty Organization member states, with the participation of the representative of China that took place on October 14. It was decided to concentrate on preventive methods of fighting with Islamic fundamentalists. «There was expressed general concern about the activities in the Middle East of the so-called Islamic State and it trying to extend its influence in the direction of the southern borders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the People’s Republic of China, as well as Afghanistan», the press-service of CSTO reported.
«First of all, we agreed on a coordinated cutting of recruitment channels and routes of movement of foreign fighters, terrorists, who go to the conflict zone», the press release said.
Meanwhile the threat keeps on spreading into the Asia-Pacific, the region of vital interest to China, Russia and the USA.
On Jan. 14, bomb attacks took place in the heart of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta – a major attack in the country since 2009. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo classified the explosions as terrorist acts. The Islamic State has recently identified Indonesia as a location of its interest. Up to 700 Indonesians have travelled to Syria in recent years to fight with anti-regime forces, with the majority allying themselves with the Islamic State, according to the Indonesian government. Indonesia fighters have also appeared in ISIS propaganda. The country has the world's largest Muslim population; the vast majority of the believers practice a moderate form of the religion. The country saw a spate of militant attacks in the 2000s.
The Jakarta tragedy makes recall the recent events in late 2015. In an online video masked gunmen were standing in front of the Islamic State flag, threatening an imminent attack on the Philippines hours after the deadly attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. The country was set to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) on Nov.18. The video, which was addressed to the Philippine government, warned that an attack would happen «soon». In 2014 the terror group Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mindanao pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. Even before the rise of the Islamic State in 2014, the southern Philippine region of Mindanao had been on the radar of international security observers due to a series of bomb attacks and kidnappings committed by the groups.
The Islamic State warned in a video on Nov. 16, 2015 that countries taking part in air strikes against Syria would suffer the same fate as France, and threatened to attack in Washington.
On Jan.13 Russia President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with US President Obama to reiterate the need to create a broad international coalition against the Islamic State, as well as all of the terrorist organizations operating in Syria, as soon as possible.
Globalization is not just a bed of roses with fresh fruits of all kinds at the supermarket in heavy mid-winter snow, easy air travel to all corners of the planet and the world interconnected by Internet. Terror gets global too. At any given minute militants are taught, trained and armed thousands of miles away to kill innocent people in all parts of the world sparing no one. International terror requires an international response. Emphasizing the divisions between the West and Russia when we should be united plays into the hands of the terrorists. Beijing joining the coalition with Russia will get Washington on the ropes, but it’s not the goal. The divisions among those who oppose the Islamic State should not hamper united efforts. We must also face up to the fact that we will not defeat the Islamic State without a broader, more effective and much better coordinated military effort. We must join together driving the terrorists out of their self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Otherwise, the territory they control will continue to be a haven and a training ground for murderers.
Russia and China have made clear that the destruction of Islamic State is their fight. All those men and women cut down in Paris, Istanbul, Jakarta and other places must be avenged. Their deaths should challenge us to do away with the evil that threatens to overwhelm the world.