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The Idea of Terrorism in China

Kam C. Wong

Abstract
This research investigated an old political problem in a new cultural context: what is the idea
of terrorism in China? Specifically, this research posed two inter-related research questions
in search of an understanding of terrorism on Chinese soil: how did China conceive of
terrorism in the imperial past? What is China’s conception of terrorism in the communist
present? A review of literature informs that there is very little research into and discussion of
the historical roots or indigenous conceptualization of terrorism in China. This research is a
first and tentative step to fill the literature gap. The research found that while the idea of
“terrorism” (as understood in western terms) has no counterpart in China’s past, China has
treated “terrorist” activities as political violence, i.e. challenged to the ruler’s mandate from
heaven and disruption of cosmic order. It also finds that the contemporary PRC
understanding of and attitude toward terrorism exhibited a remarkable continuity with the
past, i.e. until very recently there was no terrorism law but counter-revolutionary crimes.
Thus observed China, old and new, preferred to think about terrorism in more generic terms
of political criminality, i.e. violent posing challenges to prevailing authority or dominant
ideology; disrupting “mandate from heaven” of old and undermining “Marxism – Leninism
– Maoism – Dengism” of new.

Keywords: Terrorism, Idea of Terrorism, Chinese Terrorism, Political Violence, Luan in China,
Counter-Terrorism