Since 2001, terrorism has become a frightening phenomenon, posing major threats to the stability, peace, and security of China. Although much research has been undertaken to understand China’s social and public policies of terrorism, little attention has been drawn toward the state’s legal response to this emerging threat. This article aims to explore a new legal framework against terrorism the Chinese government has adopted over the last decade or so. It examines the development, formation, and functionality of this mechanism within the context of the state’s new political agenda of maintaining social harmony and stability. By assessing the rhetorical and practical changes in China’s recent counterterrorism strategies, it concludes that China has begun to implement more punitive laws and punishments to combat terrorism in the post-2001 era than in the reform era (1980s–1990s). This increased level of punitiveness is pursued by countless legislative amendments to criminalize a new suite of terrorist offenses, the expansion of police powers to investigate terrorism and the intensification of punishment and sentencing on terrorist offenders.

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