This paper critically examines the Chinese framing of the “terrorist” violence in Xinjiang. Drawing on the Copenhagen school of securitization theory, it examines how the historical perception of the region as a primary source of security threats to inner China has led today’s China to continue with representing the Han Chinese–Uyghur discord as an existential threat. In framing the ethnic conflict as a security issue, China has capitalized on the global “war on terror” of the early 2000s to transform the unrest into acts of Islamist terrorism to legitimize its counter-insurgency policies in Xinjiang. However, both the 2009 Urumqi riots and the 2014 Kunming attack lead us to conclude that the securitization strategy fails to quell the unrest. Not only have the Strike-Hard campaigns served to radicalize Uyghur nationalists, but also Han Chinese are not convinced that the Chinese government can contain the “terrorist” threat. Yet securitization blinds the leadership to the dysfunctional ethnic policy.