Old ‘Counter-Revolution’, New ‘Terrorism’: Historicizing the Framing of Violence in Xinjiang by the Chinese State

Pablo A. Rodriguez-Merino, “Old ‘Counter-Revolution’, New ‘Terrorism’: Historicizing the Framing of Violence in Xinjiang by the Chinese State,” Central Asian Survey 38, Issue 1, 20 July 2018: 27–45.


Rodriguez-Merino argues how the idea of terrorism has been framed differently over the years by the CCP.


China has declared a war on terrorism in Xinjiang, identifying violence in the region as a top security threat. However, what nowadays is officially constructed as ‘terrorism’ was framed as ‘counter-revolution’ in the past. Informed by the concept of macrosecuritization and the agenda of critical terrorism studies, this article examines the changing nature of Chinese state framing of violence in Xinjiang. Through a comparative analysis of the discursive construction of the Baren (1990) and Maralbeshi (2013) violent incidents, I find that the terror lexicon has replaced old narratives of counter-revolution to legitimize a sustained crackdown under a novel geopolitical context. The construction of violence in Xinjiang as terrorism, I argue, is contingent, limited and unstable. It marginalizes factors other than an extremist or separatist agency in the incubation of the violence, in particular the frictions created by the crackdown with which the Chinese government is trying to placate the unrest.

Keywords: Security, Terrorism, Chinese History