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Since the 1980s, terrorism has become increasingly visible and serious in China. Mostly initiated by ethnical and religious separatists and extremists, terrorist acts in contemporary China have first occurred in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Western China) and soon spread across the country, targeting large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming (Julienne et al., 2015). In the wake of several catastrophic terrorist attacks since 9/11, 2001, the Chinese Government has begun to acknowledge terrorism as a major threat to political legitimacy and social harmony – an alarming issue that needs to be addressed immediately (Wayne, 2009). The Chinese authorities, on many occasions, have stressed the salience of establishing an effective counter-terrorism mechanism to maintain internal cohesion as the indispensable core of the state’s national security (Famularo, 2015). In the 1980s and 1990s, China’s response to terrorism was draconian in the form of imposing ‘strike hard’ and ‘repressive justice’ (Chung, 2006). This research project explores China’s new strategy of counter-terrorism the Chinese Government has adopted since 2001. It focuses on a series of novel legal and penal policies against terrorism from a socio-legal perspective. By examining the shifts in the Chinese anti-terrorism legal and penal systems in the context of the state’s social transformations, this project aims to reveal why and how China has developed a different legal framework that combats terrorism over the last fifteen years or so.

The proposed project addresses three main research questions:

  1. How has China adjusted its legal and penal strategies in response to the increased frequency and severity of terrorist attacks since 2001?
  2. Does China’s new counter-terrorism policy coincide with the state’s far-reaching legal culture of zero-tolerance on crime?
  3. What are the social and political factors that have driven the formation of a new legal framework against terrorism and what is the implication of this mechanism for the overall strategy of anti-terrorism in China?

Project members

Dr Enshen Li

Associate Lecturer
TC Beirne School of Law