In a direct challenge to China's government, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group released a propaganda video in Mandarin for the first time to recruit Muslims in the country.
The four-minute video released on Sunday featured a song with lyrics such as "it's our dream to die fighting on the battlefield", "pick up your weapons to revolt", and "the shameless enemy would panic".
It contained China-specific references, like how the Muslims have been "enslaved for a century", that mirror the country's own political rhetoric on its century of humiliation due to foreign invasion.
It is not the first time the ISIS has targeted China. In July last year, its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi put China at the top of a list of targeted countries for alleged oppression of the largely Muslim Uighur minority group in restive Xinjiang region.
China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday that the move by ISIS shows the need for closer global co-operation against terrorism.
"In the face of terrorism, no country can stand on its own, and the international community should stand closer together and co-operate to jointly strike against all forms of terrorism," ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing.
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told a separate briefing that Beijing had already joined anti-terrorism efforts with Washington and Moscow, but he gave no details.
Observers say the use of Mandarin could mark the start of an ISIS drive to recruit Chinese, especially Uighurs, to its cause of setting up an Islamic caliphate across a region which includes Xinjiang.
But observers say Chinese-language propaganda material may have limited impact, due to China's tight media and Internet control. In fact, the ISIS video could not be found in China's cyberspace while there were no reports of it in the Chinese-language media yesterday.
Lanzhou University terrorism expert Yang Shu believes the ISIS could be targeting not just Uighurs but China's 23 million-strong Muslim population, especially the Hui group, many of whom are able to speak Mandarin.
Shanghai Institute for International Studies terrorism expert Zhao Gancheng believes the video is aimed at attracting Mandarin-speaking youth across the world.
"The impact on societies with a large Chinese-speaking population could be bigger than that in China. In this Internet age, it is hard to prevent the youth from accessing these material," he told The Straits Times.
Singapore-based terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said the video is part of a rivalry between the ISIS and the Al-Nusra terror group in recruiting Chinese nationals.
"There are now nearly 1,000 Chinese fighting for various groups in Syria, with more joining the Al-Nusra group than ISIS. The video is ISIS' move in attracting more Chinese nationals," he told The Straits Times.
Observers say the rise of ISIS might also have prompted the increased activity of another terror group, based on reports by the China Youth Daily on Monday that the police in Shanxi provincial capital Taiyuan have arrested four terrorists.
They are described as members of the Hijra militant group that began in the 1960s in Egypt and started becoming active in China from the 1990s to push for separatism in Xinjiang. Three of them, based on their names, appeared to be Uighurs.
This article was first published on December 9, 2015.
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