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Ali Abdullah WIBISONO: State’s Responses to Terrorism: Comparing the Cases of China and Indonesia
September 12,2019   By:
State’s Responses to Terrorism: Comparing the Cases of China and Indonesia
Ali Abdullah WIBISONO
Abstract: Both Indonesia and China are faced with the problem of Islamic violent extremism. This article seeks to explore the differences in threat perception towards the problem. It finds that differences in the nature of and perception of the government towards Islamic violent extremism leads to a stark difference between China and Indonesia. However, both China and Indonesia are facing the similar situation of a potentially escalating counter-terrorism response in the future because historical roots of the problem in both countries cannot be addressed their framing as terrorism. 
This article compares the historical roots of Islamic violent extremism and the framing of the problem as terrorism by the governments in China and Indonesia. Secondly, it compares the responses of the state by drawing from the legal instruments promulgated by the states in responding to terrorism.  This article aims to compare the issue of Islamist violent extremism that formed the essence of terrorism in both countries and the state’s response to terrorism, including deradicalization and counter-terrorism and the changing nature of terrorist activities. The analytical lens of securitization theory is utilized to explain the fundamentals of threat perception that underlie the securitization of terrorism post 9/11 in Indonesia and Xinjiang, China in a comparative perspective. 
It argues that the two countries’ securitization of terrorism are fundamentally different as China’s securitization of terrorism in Xinjiang is part of assimilation of an ethnic minority while Indonesia’s securitization of terrorism is part of an amelioration of extremist-violent interpretation of religious identity. The policy-measures that are produced by securitization of terrorism in the two countries also differ: Indonesia’s policy of counter-terrorism is mostly legal products established through executive and legislative compromise followed by criminal-justice measures pursuit of suspects, while China’s response to terrorism in Xinjiang is more state-directed in nature and aimed ultimately at maintaining stability. 
Both states implement deradicalization strategies as part of their response to terrorism. Indonesia’s deradicalization is focused on transforming captured terrorists’ faith into a moderate one, which in practice is heavily dependent on repentant former terrorists and voluntary for terrorist suspects and inmates. Meanwhile, China’s deradicalization is imposed upon terrorist inmates and former inmates as well as religious figures who are evaluated by the state. Xinjiang prison authorities stress the value of well-behaved inmates who demonstrate obvious signs of being de-radicalized after undergoing custodial programs.
This article concludes that Indonesia and China encountered contrastingly different setting of terrorism problem. Indonesia’s terrorism problem bears no marks of neighboring state’s intervention and geopolitical stakes. The danger of terrorism in Indonesia arises from the difficulty to mobilize public support for new initiatives and budget appropriation in counter-terrorism and deradicalization, instead of external interference to terrorism or communal conflicts. Meanwhile, the danger of terrorism in Xinjiang is the possibility of emergence of groups that are capable of conducting engagement with external actors to commit violence. Indonesian should learn from China’s stability-centered counter-terrorism strategies that appear to embrace a preemptive and populist approach that allow more civic participation and encourage government/community partnerships. On the other hand, China should learn from Indonesia’s low-profile anti-terrorism where non-governmental agencies are allowed to represent their own organizations instead of being part of the government. 
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