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China’s Response to ISIS Is Drawing Online Ire

APTOPIX Mali AttackAPTOPIX Mali Attack
Mali troopers assist a hostage to safety on Thursday.Photograph by Harouna Traore — AP via Getty Images

At least seven Chinese citizens were among the hostages held in the Mali hotel overwhelmed by a group of terrorists related to Al Qaeda, China’s Xinhua news agency said Friday.

This comes after news earlier this week that ISIS had killed its first Chinese captive, a consultant named Fan Jinghui.

The official response in China was expectedly forceful on both acts. President Xi Jinping condemned terrorists and ISIS as the “common enemy of humanity.” But the response on Chinese social media was largely skeptical that officials’ rhetoric would amount to action.

“As usual—I can see this even with my eyes closed—the next step will be a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry strongly protesting and condemning and moaning,” a commenter wrote on China’s social media site Sina Weibo after the ISIS hostage Fan was killed, the New York Times noted. “But I hope I won’t just see the spokesman’s feeble ‘protest and condemnation’ and then everything just going back to silence and fading out.”

The debate on Chinese social media about what China’s response should be is widespread. The Times, again, noted what a commenter named Hercule_Holmes_Star wrote on Weibo: “If you don’t understand, then don’t talk nonsense. France declared war on ISIS and with what result? If China openly opposes ISIS, would you guys still be here talking with your legs crossed?”

Like the discussion in the U.S., many in China feel the country is not going far enough to fight the terrorists. The difference, however, is that the U.S. has participated in tactical bombings, while China has stayed on the sidelines.

Last month Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered three proposals in response to the conflict in Syria. Those included political talks, humanitarian relief, and greater anti-terrorism cooperation. He had previously pleaded with the UN Security Council to seek a political solution.

China’s government is aware its response is being questioned. Online news about ISIS’s execution of Fan was being censored this week on Sina Weibo. The president of a mainland China think tank told the Wall Street Journal that continued chatter about Fan “may create tremendous pressure on the government to do something, and I don’t think they’re ready yet.”

Until it is, the strong political rhetoric and online censoring of discussion will continue to be China’s only response to recent acts of terrorism.