China has blamed the brutal killing spree that left 29 people dead in the southern city of Kunming on 1st March on separatists linked to international terrorism, but the lack of firearms and explosives in the attack has left some analysts unconvinced by this explanation.
The US Embassy in Beijing originally described the attack as “a horrific, senseless act of violence”, but on Monday US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki revised that statement and described the attack as appearing “to be an act of terrorism targeting random members of the public”. However, this change to using the “terrorism” descriptor may have been influenced by a hostile Chinese reaction to their original sentiment, where state-run news agency Xinhua criticised the US’ “double standards in the global fight against terrorism”.
Whatever the terms used to describe the attack in public, links between the Muslim minority group, the Uighurs, appear to be thin. The Chinese have long used the threat of an international conspiracies to crackdown on dissent, and vague statements about Uighur links with international Islamic extremism offer a convenient smokescreen behind which they can continue to marginalise the group.
While groups linked to al-Qaeda are know to use basic tools such as knives to commit atrocities, that no group has claimed credit for this attack again lends credence to the argument that the attack was more a result of internal struggles within China than any overriding external influence.