Research Student: Chi Zhang
Terrorism, radicalisation and changing identity: a study of counterterrorism strategy in China
Critical Terrorism theorists have been calling for a ‘cultural turn’ in attempting to deal with methodological weakness and to improve the policy relevance or research. Along with the effort to reexamine current counterterrorism from a critical perspective, it is increasingly recognised that preventive measures based on the distinction between ‘us and them’ are problematic in that it potentially targets a broader group of people – often ethnic minorities – by enhancing the similarity within the group and the difference between groups.
Identities are multi-layered. The process of radicalisation is closely connected with different layers of identities. By making salient ‘us and them’ distinction, the government may create a hierarchy of identities. According to this hierarchy, the government potentially asks for a higher loyalty to the state than religious or ethnic communities. Those who are less ready to pay such loyalty are too quick to be viewed as the ‘others’.
The ‘evil’ of terrorism has been repeatedly hyped. Thereby the government’s effort to reduce terrorism reversely fits into the terrorist’ goal to recreate the gap and to reiterate the incompatibility between ‘national identity’ and ‘ethnic identity’.
My research argues that the process of labelling and ‘othering’ is the major obstacle to generate coherent and effective long-term strategy. In the process of developing a comprehensive strategy to deal with terrorism, China has to a large extent imported ideas, concepts and methods from the West without reconsider their compatibility with Chinese political system. This research will examine the dynamics through documentary research of the Chinese government, complimented with interview with government officials, community leaders, scholars and prisoners. It seeks to reorganise the fragmented understanding of counterterrorism strategy in Chinese context, and to provide constructive agenda for future research.
Having finished my undergraduate in Hindi language, I studied at SOAS for a Master in South Asian Area Studies.
After that, I did an internship at Shanxi Academy of Social Science, during which period I have been invited by several local universities to give presentation on English study and politics. Also, working as an assistant, I briefly touched upon practical issues regarding the protection of intangible world heritage in indigenous culture. I have been writing reports for the Academy and journal articles on terrorism, counter-terrorism, and anti-terrorism law published in Chinese.
What motivated me to undertake PhD study?
Essentially, I enjoy the process of knowledge accumulation. It provides a framework though with the world could be better explained and understood. Practically, a PhD study has the potential to facilitate a more professional environment for research, and to lead to a higher standard by which my ability to pursue knowledge could be enhanced. The completion of a PhD projects helps to develop multiple skills including time management, information management, research skills, which is extremely helpful to pursue a career in academia.
What makes me passionate about my subject?
Inspired by works on philosophy and social psychology, I have been interested generally in deviant behaviour, rebellion, mentality of extremists and terrorists, causes of anti-social behaviour, and process of radicalisation. Radicalisation and terrorism are among the most frequently mentioned security concerns.
What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?
I would like to pursue a career as a researcher, either at universities or other types of organisations such as think tanks.