What's keeping China from being a major target for terrorism?

you’d be hard pressed to find any other country that oppresses Muslims worse:

Is the problem that China is totalitarian and thus a terror campaign is hard to pull off? It’s not like Arabs and Chechens and Iranians can hide among Chinese without being noticed. I’d also imagine when attacks do happen there’s heavy censorship, which denies them publicity, further reducing the incentive to try it. Or is China’s internal security just that good? Is al Qaeda and other groups just intimidated by China? Even so, I’m surprised there’s been no word of anyone declaring jihad against China.

China did experience a pretty horrifying attack in 2014:

But China believes it was homegrown. Are they successfully keeping non-Chinese Muslims out to keep the pool of potential militants limited to Muslims already within their borders?

The veracity of those reports have been questioned as the sources are interested.

But the Chinese seem to perfer to throw money at a problem as opposed to military solutions. That tends to cool a lot of tempers.

China was also the target of European colonial powers, so they tend to have less historical connection to the groups that are angered by Western infidels.

Philippines, Indonesia, and similar countries accepted or were overwhelmed by the European interests, so their fundamentalist Muslim populations could perceive the local governments as either oppressing Islam or supporting a corrupted Islam. The Chinese, particularly with the success of Mao’s forces, effectively threw out all the Western influences so there was not the same sort of ongoing antipathy toward Islam when the end of the Cold War turned the various Muslim groups loose on the rest of the world. China has worked to bring/keep Iran within its sphere of influence, reducing the likelihood of anti-Chinese funding.

First, China does get terror attacks, though not that many. (Although to be fair, the United States doesn’t get that many either. Our random violence doesn’t tend to be terror so much as fame seeking white men with various mental problems. China gets those attacks as well, but their gun control laws tend to limit the damage.)

Second, China has stamped on terrorism with tools that are unavailable and undesirable in the West. The Great Firewall for one has limited the ability of radicals to recruit and communicate with new members. They also have a heavy surveillance state where people assume that they are being monitored at all times. Facial recognition software is used to track all movements for anything suspicious. They have essentially banned any public expression of Islam to the point where they do random cell phone checks to see if you have any religious material on the phone. Mosques are basically completely under surveillance at all times and no public official is allowed to enter a mosque for religious purposes. All children under the age of 18 are not allowed in any mosques. Beards and veils have been outlawed as well. There are even reports that they are running ‘drinking and smoking’ campaigns to encourage the behavior knowing that those who don’t are more likely to be more religious and these people get sent away. They also do not allow freedom of movement for Muslims so they basically are contained completely within Xinjiang. One of their more interesting methods is called grid policing. There is a police station in every ‘grid’ of 500 people. The officers there are responsible for monitoring the 500 people within their grid at all times. They are also given quotas for finding ‘extremists.’ so even people who aren’t particularly extreme at all get swept up in quota policing and sent to reeducation facilities. Fun times.

Speaking of ‘reeducation tactics.’ There are 11 million or so Uighurs in Xinjiang. Of those, 1 million are in ‘reeducation camps’ which are basically good old fashioned brain-washing facilities. People in these camps are sometimes just picked at random so they can later be released as good little Communists and be used to spy on others in the community. They use torture and repetition of communist creeds as well as educational materials. Fun times.

It should also be noted that the Chinese people do not have access to destruction like we do in the US. Their main methods are knife attacks and running cars into people. Explosives and guns are so tightly controlled as to simply be out of reach, so even when they do commit terror attacks, it’s closer to 2 people dead instead of 50.

As senoy noted, they do actually get terrorist type attacks. Since they control the media and infrastructure they suppress quite a lot of what happens. But internally they tend to suppress such groups by the expedient of draconian restrictions, harsh punishments (including of course being executed and used for parts), and unbelievable levels of surveillance of the population. Externally, I don’t think most Muslims are aware of just how harsh China is towards their Uyghur population…or what they could do about it in any case. China does actually have a base in Afghanistan (near the border) that seems to have the sole purpose of preventing Afghani’s from entering the country that way as well as catching their own Muslim population from fleeing. Finally, China isn’t a western power, so they tend not to be thought of in the same light with the same baggage of colonialism and centuries of historical conflict. China also has been spending quite a lot of money on their belt and road initiative, and they are spending it in several Muslim countries in the ME and Africa so that has bolstered their image quite a bit (though not sure how those countries feel about the debt trap and the fact that China mainly uses imported Chinese labor to do the projects instead of using local people).

Because trying to attack the Chinese by terrorist campaigns is like trying to attack the Americans by declaring war and openly marching toward their border, or like trying to overpower the Germans by clever engineering.

I wouldnt be surprised though if in the future you see some Chinese corporation offices outside the country hit.

China has probably the biggest tracking system of citizens in the world, and has embraced big data like no one else without privacy controls.

Chinese Muslims generally are the Uighur minority in the far Western province of Xinjiang that borders India, Pakistan and some of the other 'Stans. The Uighurs can be instantly recognized as non Han Chinese, so can’t blend into a crowd. They may not speak Mandarin or have a heavy accent.

Xinjiang has always been a border area. It was part of the Great Game and jostled by the British, Russians and Chinese. Xinjiang actually has some fairly strong claims to independence, and IIRC had issued passports and hosted a British Embassy in the 1940s.

I’m no expert but the Chinese muslims don’t seem to have strong connections with the rest of the world.

There are a lot of Hui who can probably blend in well enough, but my understanding is that as a group and for a variety of reasons( including tension with the more numerous Uighurs and a good bit of minor preferential treatment )they tend to be rather less disaffected.

No probably about it, they definitely have the largest and most sophisticated tracking system on the planet. Last time I looked they were approaching more cameras than the US has people, and they have plans to expand that even further. And your comment about the sophistication of their tracking AI is definitely on point…it’s an awesome, if extremely scary system that allows the CCP unprecedented capabilities in facial recognition and even behavioral analysis based on image data, and allows it to actually be processed and tracked in real time and used, despite the massive amount of data we are talking about with all that implies. Hell, they are even incorporating it into their social credit system and having it make automated decisions that affect all aspects of Chinese life.

That social credit system is another answer to the OP as well.

I didn’t want to confuse non-Sinophiles. Yes, the Hui can probably pass as Han Chinese on looks if they shave and change their clothing.

I don’t know what % but a significant proportion of the Hui essentially don’t eat pork as their only Muslim practice. They don’t speak anything but Chinese, don’t do prayers, don’t face Mecca, etc. I guess one could make an analogy with non-observant members of the Jewish community.

Two things that caught my eye most in the responses:

  1. Lack of foreign funding for terror groups. Seems like the idea that militant groups can survive on their own doesn’t really work in the real world. Unless Saudi Arabia or Iran are willing to fund Chinese militant groups and face the consequences of doing so(China is probably a lot less wiling to play diplomatic games like the West is over that issue), then militant groups, such as they are, are totally on their own.

  2. Lack of propaganda on the Arab street about China. I guess since a) China isn’t a historical colonial power and b) China is a financial benefactor and c) China would actually cut off funds if media reported negatively on them in the region, then that means there’s no way to whip up anger against China the way anger is whipped up against the West, Israel, and India.

But there does seem to be a lesson there for the West. First, we should stop playing games. For a brief moment after 9/11 we acted like we were all done with that, but our relationship with Saudi Arabia made that inoperable. If we actually threatened financial and security consequences for screwing with us by funding terror or whipping up hatred against us in the Arab media, maybe that would produce results. Right now, Saudi Arabia especially knows there are no consequences for funding terror or teaching their people to hate their “allies”. Maybe there should be consequences, like, “The Saud royal family will be on their own. Good luck staying in power without foreign support.”

On a related note, the New Republic has published an article about how universities avoid criticizing China. China’s ability to be relatively popular in the world despite being basically the worst country in the world is a pretty remarkable feat:

President Obama used to talk a lot about “soft power”, as in feel good stuff that would supposedly make people like us better. But China’s use of it’s soft power in less kind ways seems to be a lot more effective. Criticize China? Maybe you won’t get access to conferences, Chinese scientists, or joint Chinese-American programs.

Seems to me that one of the no-brainer bills that Democrats should pass once they take Congress, and that Trump would almost certainly sign, is a bill making it illegal for US companies to aid China in their censorship. Google openly aids the Chinese government for profit. There are already laws on the books banning US companies from interfering in foreign governments or bribing officials. While this would technically be cooperating with a government, US companies should not be directly implementing repressive foreign governments’ policies.

Plus, that whole “invading a country that had little or nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks” might have been a factor in completely undercutting the “not playing games with you anymore” meme. But I digress.

Ruthlessness works.

Uprisings don’t happen against horrible, oppressive government. Uprisings happen against ineffective, mildly bad leadership.

The First Emperor of China supposedly killed about 1/3rd of the male population by forcing them to construct the Great Wall. All rejoiced.

John, King of England lost a war in France and his barons rose up and forced him to sign the Magna Carta.

If you lock up everyone who even seems like a problem, and break them, then you’re not going to have much crime nor terrorism. In the US, we have to prove that criminals are criminals. Over there, they just swoop in and make you disappear. You don’t pull friends into criminality. You don’t create a batch of single-mother baby-mamas.

Moral or not, it’s quite possible that more lives are saved than lost by shutting down criminal activity before it can get started. The cost is that some innocent men who would never have done anyone wrong are going to be beaten by the police and returned to society as broken men.

Not to bust the bubble on a great theory, but you know China actually does have a lot of crime, right? And that a lot of folks that get locked up aren’t actually criminals…right? You can get away with mass murder (or just running over someone with your car) if you have the right connections (and assuming your faction stays on top…gods help you when it no longer is, as you are almost certainly going to be arrested for ‘corruption’), or you can be arrested, tortured, executed and cut up for spare parts if you meditate. I don’t think China has a great model on stopping crime or terrorism through draconian measures, even if that were a good thing.

Also true. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the most successful serial killer ever is alive right now in China.

The way they stop crime and the way they stop terrorism are two separate things. They stop crime poorly. Their justice system is a system for hire that completely favors the rich. Justice is partially arbitrary, so you can end up in just as much trouble for reporting a crime as you can for committing it. The police forces are things to be feared instead of things to help. It makes crime a problem.

Terrorism on the other hand, they fight by non-arbitrary and very targeted oppression. They know that terrorism is largely going to come from Uighurs, so they isolate and destroy Uighur culture and identity ruthlessly. They identify the culture as a problem, so they commit cultural genocide against it. It’s very different than how they handle crime among the Han population.

Well, Jiang Zemin is still alive and, at least so far hasn’t been purged on ‘corruption’ charges…