Chinese President condemns Islamic State killings but has little room for next step

Xi Jinping joined by Apec leaders in denouncing terrorism but Beijing has few ways to respond

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 12:57am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 12:57am

President Xi Jinping  on Thursday strongly condemned Islamic State’s killing of a Chinese captive in the Middle East, a stand bolstered by Apec’s call for international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

But analysts said China’s ability to retaliate against the radical Islamist group was limited, given Beijing’s long-standing policy of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs. “Terrorists are the common enemy of humankind,” Xi said in a written statement.

“China firmly opposes terrorists of all forms and resolutely cracks down on any crimes that challenge the foundation of human civilisation.”

IS said on Wednesday it had killed a Chinese hostage along with a Norwegian, who had been held since at least September. The foreign ministry confirmed the Chinese national as Fan Jinghui, a 50-year-old Beijing man who was a teacher before moving into advertising and TV production. He was the first Chinese national known to have been held and killed by the group.

Read more: China flags ‘fight’ against terrorism as it confirms for first time Islamic State has executed hostage Fan Jinghui

With its declaration yesterday, Apec made a rare departure from purely economic and trade concerns, calling for global solidarity to combat such violence. “Under the shadow cast by the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and against Russian aircraft over the Sinai, and elsewhere, we strongly condemn all acts, methods, and practices of terrorism in all their forms and manifestations,” the declaration said.

“We stress the urgent need for increased international cooperation and solidarity in the fight against terrorism.”

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she could not confirm the killing of its national, said to be 48-year-old Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad.

China’s foreign ministry pledged Beijing would “certainly bring the criminals to justice”. But it was not clear how the government could do this.

Read more: A drifter who thrived on insecurity: the Chinese hostage killed by Islamic State

“China is now in a dilemma,” Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong  said.

“If it joins the allies, or even sends troops, it might trigger further revenge from IS, and cause bigger losses of Chinese life and for companies overseas.”

Liu Zhongmin, an expert on the Middle East at Shanghai International Studies University, said Beijing was feeling global pressure to take action in the fight against terrorism. “It is very unlikely China would initiate military action over this incident … Even if China wanted to, conditions do not allow it,” he said. The country has no military presence in the Middle East.

It is very unlikely China would initiate military action over this incident … Even if China wanted to, conditions do not allow it
Liu Zhongmin

William Callahan, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, said China did not have many options for bringing IS to justice, given Beijing’s strong support for the doctrine of non-intervention. “The only thing that Beijing can do is work through the UN to get a Security Council resolution that would sanction attacks within Syria. But China will not be a major player in this because the main countries [there] are France and Russia.”

Additional reporting by Sidney Leng, Laura Zhou and Associated Press