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Navigating Securities: Rethinking (Counter-)Terrorism, Stability Maintenance, and Non-Violent Responses in the Chinese Province of Xinjiang

Discussions on PolicyRegionsWorld

Terrorism and Political ViolenceJournal abstract
This article draws on critical scholarship on (counter-)terrorism as well as the authors’ long-term fieldwork (conducted in Xinjiang from 2005 to 2017) to explore not only the securitizing agency of the state and counter-securitizing agency of “terrorists” but also the manner in which other societal actors (involving street-level bureaucrats, local Imams, and ethnic inhabitants) interact with these processes in China. This article argues that the practice of security, both in the Chinese province of Xinjiang and across China, has a performative quality to it, which manifests in not merely the official regulations and propagandas, but also the localized responses to their bureaucratic operations in the state project of “stability maintenance.” While the “stability”-focused counter-terrorism activities in China involve supplementing the traditional model of retrospective intervention with a performance-based, preemptive approach that allows for more civic participation, the authors argue that the public performance of “stability” and “counter-terrorism” has become a means of professional advancement and/or survival for local cadres. In the unstable geopolitical environment of Xinjiang, where anxious contests have taken place between state and various non-state powers for control over territory, the government has been compelled to constantly seek out potential agents (referring in the present context to local cadres, Imams, and mosques) in order to forge local partnerships as part of the process of implementing counter-terrorism policies. The article examines how local cadres and ethnic inhabitants in Xinjiang, being motivated by their own survival and interests, react to and capitalize on the processes of implementing counter-terrorism policies in local societies, which ultimately challenges the ability of the state to rule and thus leads to unpredicted and unintended counter-terrorism policy outcomes.

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