BEIJING, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- It has a tragic Sisyphean tinge to it. As the United States was withdrawing from a two-decade "war on terror" in Afghanistan, a deadly terror attack rocked Kabul airport, killing over 100 people. ISIS-K, an Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State, claimed responsibility.
While Sisyphus, the king of Ephyra, is condemned to ever-lasting labor of pushing a huge boulder uphill only to have it roll back down, America's "war on terror," despite costing a colossal amount of money and lives, only resulted in a loss of U.S. credibility and likely a larger breeding ground for terrorism.
Yet, as intractable as terrorism is, China has made remarkable achievements in reining in the scourge. Within its borders, the country has recorded no terror attack since 2017. In the global arena, the country participates actively in both bilateral and multilateral counter-terrorism efforts.
Recognizing terrorism as a transnational threat and "a common enemy of mankind," China, with President Xi Jinping at the helm, highlights the need to address both its symptoms and root causes, and calls for building "a global united front" with a new vision for security.
"RATS SCURRYING ACROSS STREET"
"We should have zero tolerance for terrorism, separatism and extremism," the Chinese president pledged at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit held in May 2014.
By then, the world was experiencing a surge in terrorism. Between 2012 and 2013, according to the Global Terrorism Index produced by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace, the number of deaths from terrorism increased by as much as 61 percent.
"Not only is the intensity of terrorism increasing, its breadth is increasing as well," the report said.
China was also a victim of this "globalization of terrorism" trend. Around 2014, the country saw a spate of deadly terror attacks, including one in the southwestern city of Kunming two months before Xi's CICA speech, where 29 people were killed and over 130 injured by knife-wielding separatists from Xinjiang.
The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, a UN Security Council-listed terrorist group, claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in several Chinese cities. It has maintained close ties with other international terrorist organizations and received significant support from al-Qaida.
Violent terrorists ignore basic human rights, trample on justice and challenge the bottom-line of human civilization, Xi said at a group study session of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on national security and social stability in April 2014.
It is neither an issue of nationality nor one of religion, but the common enemy of people of all nationalities, he said. "(We must) make terrorists become like rats scurrying across a street with everybody shouting 'beat them!'"
A GLOBAL UNITED FRONT
In his debut at the UN General Assembly in 2015, Xi said the security of all countries is interlinked.
"No country can maintain absolute security with its own effort, and no country can achieve stability out of other countries' instability," said Xi. China continues to participate in international counter-terrorism efforts with the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Global Counterterrorism Forum, among others.
Calling terrorism the "common enemy of mankind" and fighting terrorism "a shared responsibility of all countries," Xi has never hesitated to condemn a terror attack whenever and wherever it occured.
In November 2015, less than a day after a string of terror attacks took place across the French capital of Paris, killing at least 129, Xi sent a message of condolence to then French President Francois Hollande, expressing the "strongest" condemnation over such "barbaric acts."
"China always opposes all forms of terrorism," Xi said.
However, Western politicians have appeared reluctant to recognize and condemn terror attacks on Chinese soil.
On Nov. 5, 2020, two days after the U.S. presidential election, the outgoing Donald Trump administration announced the delisting of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement as a terrorist group.
"The timing could not be more cynical -- what better way to get back at China, which Trump had repeatedly blamed for his political misfortunes?" said Shan Weijian, an author and the CEO of PAG, one of Asia's leading investment firms.
Some countries apply double standards in the fight against terrorism, thus straining collaborative efforts to end terror across the world, Xi once pointed out in an interview with Russian media.
In a speech at the UN Office at Geneva in 2017, Xi called for building a "global united front against terrorism" and "an umbrella of security" for humanity.
REMOVING ROOT CAUSES
In a survey conducted by the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) in June, 69 percent of respondents stated that countering terrorism has become more challenging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Growing frustration, mistrust and anger among the population, as well as economic hardships are all potential drivers for an increase in terrorist threats, the CTED said in an analytical report.
The pandemic, it added, has also restricted access to education worldwide, reducing the educational and employment prospects for youth and potentially weakening their resilience against violent extremist discourse.
These results highlighted a widely observed fact that terrorism is deep-rooted and multifaceted -- political, economic, social, religious and historical -- and cannot be wiped out by a "whack a mole" strategy.
On several bilateral and multilateral occasions, Xi has called for addressing both the symptoms and root causes of terrorism through comprehensive measures.
Elaborating on Xi's vision, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a UN gathering in 2019 that deradicalization measures must be actively adopted to deter the spread of extremist thought and eliminate breeding grounds for terrorism; the argument of "clash of civilizations" must be discarded and not exploited to the terrorists' advantage.
The fundamental solution, he said, lies in development, sustainable development in particular.
Commenting on uncertainties in regional stability after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Hong Kong-based English-language newspaper South China Morning Post cited the Belt and Road Initiative as offering development opportunities beyond the economic chaos of COVID-19.
The initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, offers a fundamental solution to poverty and closing the widening gap between rich and poor, thus potentially ending a source of terrorism, said Li Wei, a member of China Society for Human Rights Studies.
Furthermore, Li, also an expert on counter-terrorism, said Xi's vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind allows people of all ethnicities, nationalities and religions to come together to fight terrorism and extremism.
In line with this vision, the Chinese president proposed a new framework for regional security. It calls for all parties to respect and ensure each other's security, promote individual and regional security through dialogue and cooperation, and include development as a means of fostering security.
A year later, Xi reiterated the vision before a global audience in his 2015 UN speech.
"Flexing military muscles only reveals the lack of moral ground or vision rather than reflecting one's strength," Xi once said. "Security can be solid and enduring only if it is based on a moral high ground and vision."