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Caution, not paranoia, key to fighting terrorism

By Li Wei (Global Times)

08:37, September 05, 2011

Recent increases in airport security measures in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere have stirred up public feelings. Many passengers feel annoyed by the new measures, while others believe that China’s current security measures are insufficient and it should follow US tactics.

Neither opinion is correct. China’s counter-terrorism needs to be strengthened appropriately, but not to the level of communal vigilance and public involvement of the US.

We have to understand how terrorism works. Terrorists always use violence to get publicity. They don’t enjoy an advantage in numbers, so only brutality can get them noted.

People used to judge the seriousness of traditional threats by the number of people involved. But in terrorism, the impact of the attack can be wildly disproportionate to the size of the group behind it.

Terrorists seek sensational effect. They are bound to try their best to look for society’s weak links. As China modernizes, it has more such critical spots, such as transport hubs and civil aviation, which are vulnerable to attack.

In peacetime, terrorism is elusive, sudden and uncertain. When terrorist attacks do not happen, people forget about the threat. Then when something does happen the psychological shock on the public and the effect it produces are inestimable. If the Oslo massacre hadn’t occurred, Norway’s paradisical image wouldn’t have been shattered. Nobody knows when and where the terrorists will launch attacks.

As for China, the most direct threat is the East Turkestan forces, who are made up by a minority of people who are concentrated on their own political goals. They do not represent any ethnic groups or religion. However, even a few number of people could make extremely sensational terrorist attacks. Once attacks happen, it is hard to undo the harm they cause. So we should nip terrorism in the bud instead of dealing with the aftermath of attacks.

At present, public cooperation is especially important. China has had a peaceful and stable situation for a long time. The citizens are accustomed to a peaceful environment. Once security measures are tightened slightly, it is understandable that the public feels uncomfortable with it and have some conflicted moods. The whole of Chinese society should reach a consensus, that is, social development and activities should have a firm security basis.

People should be aware that State counter-terrorism is responsible for every citizen’s lives and property and that citizens have a responsibility to cooperate with the state.

The Western countries have much experience on counter-terrorism and the Western public have already been accustomed to counter-terrorism. We should draw lessons from it. However, China’s situation is different from the Western countries’ and does not necessarily get good results by blindly copying and reproducing their tactics. The terrorist threat in the West and many of our neighboring developing countries is much greater than that of China.

The secure environment has played a very important role in China’s rapid economic development over the past 30 years. Now China’s development should focus on economic construction.

So we should do more to make sure that the present peaceful environment will not be destroyed by terrorism. But we should also avoid social panic since it would influence the progress of socialist construction.

China should make a scientific evaluation of its own counter-terrorism situation and fight against terrorism with targeted goals.

We should reduce the inconvenience caused in people’s lives but also avoid terrorist attacks. Combining the two is the most efficient way to fight against terrorism.

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