Pacific Dialogue
Call an end to terrorism
By Li Wenhan  ·  2024-04-01  ·   Source: NO.14 APRIL 6, 2023

The March 22 terrorist attack in Moscow killed at least 143 people, including three children, and wounded 180 more. The massacre erupted minutes before the Russian rock band Picnic was due to perform, with terrorists using guns, grenades and incendiary bombs on the crowd inside.

Four suspects who participated directly in the attack were among 11 arrested. In an unverified online statement, the so-called "Islamic State" terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, but doubts linger within the international community regarding the true perpetrators. However, rather than focusing solely on identifying those responsible, the main concern should be eliminating the conditions that foster terrorism. The most important thing now for Russia is to strengthen its defenses to prevent the people behind this bloody crime from committing new crimes.

"The embassy has received thousands of condolences from Chinese citizens. Thank you," the Russian Embassy in China said on Chinese X-like platform Weibo on March 23, soon after the attack, which struck the Crocus City Hall music venue in suburban Moscow.

The sentiment among the thousands of comments was that indiscriminate attacks on ordinary people are unforgivable. Since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2022, Chinese Internet users' attitudes toward it have been polarized, but there has been unanimous condemnation when it comes to terrorist attacks.

Russia has suffered large-scale terrorist attacks in past decades. The number of casualties in the music hall has surpassed that of the terrorist attack in a Moscow theater in 2002, and is second only to the Beslan hostage crisis in 2004.

In that incident, about 30 Chechen militants seized a school in Beslan, south Russia, taking hundreds of hostages in September 2004. The siege ended with a massacre that killed over 330 people, with half being children.

China's empathy for Russia stems from its own experience as a victim of terrorism and its deep recognition that terrorism, knowing no borders, race or faith, brings disaster and suffering to human society. Despite China's endeavors and accomplishments in counterterrorism since the 2000s, safeguarding overseas Chinese remains a challenge.

Only three days after the Moscow tragedy, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers working on a dam project in northwest Pakistan, killing six people—five Chinese nationals and one Pakistani.

The specter of terrorism has cast its shadow in China in the past decades, with thousands of attacks causing death, injury and property loss. It is crucial to acknowledge that the common wish of Chinese people is to stand united against this menace.

On July 5, 2009, an appalling violent incident took place in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, leaving 197 people dead, according to statistics. It created an unprecedented urgency to crack down on terrorism and extremism.

With over a decade of counterterrorist efforts, there has been a significant absence of violent terrorist incidents for the past six years in China.

However, no single country can combat terrorism alone. Effective global counterterrorism requires cooperation among major powers.

The question is, in an era of intense geopolitical competition, how can international cooperation in combating terrorism still be feasible and effective? The current trends are worrisome. Hundreds of civilians have perished in large-scale attacks in Paris and Madrid, Baghdad and Berlin, Beslan and Mumbai. Now it's Moscow, and new names may tragically join this list.

The international community has failed to form a common definition of what constitutes terrorism. While some countries condemn actions as terrorism, others attribute them to other issues. A double standard in counterterrorism or attaching political purposes to counterterrorism will only backfire and allow terrorism to thrive. Unfortunately, in the past, there has been a prevailing double standard among certain politicians and media outlets.

International terrorism is becoming more complex and cunning. The terrorist attack in Russia clearly demonstrates how much damage a small but well-equipped radical group can cause. It was reported the gunmen were well-prepared, taking less than 20 minutes to escape by car and leaving people at the concert no time to react.

Terrorism is evolving, producing new variants. Only through ongoing enhancements in global governance can we hope to eradicate the roots of terrorism. Wisdom and determination, rather than conflict and hostility, are needed among major powers to pursue this objective. Otherwise, the risks to our shared future from international terrorism will only escalate.

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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