Thursday, July 14, 2011

TURKISH - CHINESE RELATIONS SINCE 1971 AND THE EAST TURKISTAN ISSUE


Introduction
 
Turkish and Chinese people have historical relations since the periods of the Hun Empire and Göktürks. These relationships are driven, sometimes friendly and sometimes went to war in the history. In addition to this the historical Silk Route ensures economic, social and cultural links between Turkish and Chinese peoples. However, the political confusion between People`s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) was the key point of the recognition of PRC. Finally, with the parallelity of the US`s China policy, Turkey pursues One China Policy and People`s Republic of China is recognized on 5 August 1971 by the Republic of Turkey although the East Turkestan problem continues. Hence, this paper focuses on dynamics of relations between The Republic of Turkey and People`s Republic of China with the intention of analyzing the economic and political relations between these countries since 1971. Firstly, there will be a brief historical background of Turkish-Chinese relations in the paper. Then, the answers of the question of how do Turkey and China sees each other, today will be analyzed in this paper. Moreover, economic and political relations will be analyzed between Turkey and China since 1971. Furthermore, the Uyghur problem and the effects of this problem on Turkish-Chinese relations are included. So, the paper also focuses on the details of the triangle relations between the Republic of Turkey, People`s Republic of China and the East Turkistan. The Relations Between The Republic of Turkey and the East Turkistan in the Shadow of the People`s Republic of China is analyzed. Economic, political and sociological dimensions of the East Turkistan issue are examined. Finally, the paper concludes with ensuring overview of the analysis, briefly.
1- Historical Background of Turkish-Chinese Relations


As it is mentioned in the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ documents and both historical sources of both Turkey and China, The Republic of Turkey (TR) and People’s Republic of China (PRC) have historical relations since the periods of the Hun Empire and Göktürks. These relationships are driven, sometimes friendly and sometimes went to war.

Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road
`Turkey and People’s Republic of China (PRC) have historical bonds of friendship. The relations between the two peoples go back to China’s Han Dynasty (209 B.C.-220 A.D.) and Hun Empire which is one of the early Turkish states. There were also close relations between the Tang Dynasty (618-907), one of the most successful and stable periods of the Chinese history and the Göktürks, the Turkish state that reigned in the North in the same period. This timeframe is considered to be the most active and prosperous period of the historical Silk Route, which not only enabled trade-links between the Turkish and Chinese peoples, but also created social and cultural links between them`(Turkish Foreign Ministry, 2011).

The Republic of East Turkistan was established on 12 November 1944. However, this state collapsed after the Chinese-Communist occupation in East Turkistan in 1949. What we know today as the East Turkistan Issue arose from the Chinese occupation of these lands in the 19th century; this situation became permanent during the Nationalist and Communist governments of China.

However, the political confusion between People`s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) was the key point of the recognition of PRC. As a consequence of American President Jimmy Carter`s one China policy, Turkey pursues One China and People`s Republic of China is recognized on 5 August 1971 by the Republic of Turkey although the East Turkestan problem continues.

2- How Do Turkey and China See Each Other, Today?

  When we look at history of Turkish-Chinese relations, we see both the war and peace periods. Although the relations were not good in the 1970s and 1980s, Turkey-PRC relations seem like significantly strong, today. We can understand this from the high-level visits and trade relations. Especially after 1980, when China opened her economy to foreign markets, the relations started to improve between China and other countries. And Turkish-Chinese relations started to be straightened. `Ankara and Beijing expressed their profound desire to establish strong political relations and at the same time develop mutual economic relations` (Turkish Weekly, 2011).  

All these things show that Turkish-Chinese relations are very good and no problem in the relations. However, there is other side of Turkish-Chinese relations. Turkey and China are rivals on some areas of economics, especially in textile. As it is China has a population of almost 1.35 billion, which results in it being the country with the largest population in the world. This also means that China has very big potential workers. So, the production capacity and level of exportation of China is more than Turkey. And this affects small and medium sized companies and producers in Turkey. These companies could not compete with Chinese products and their owners started to shut down their companies. This affected to Turkish conomy very deeply and even today we have a big unemployment rate.
On the other hand, there is the East Turkistan; Uyghur issue within the PRC. This is also related with the Republic of Turkey. Not only Turkey has Uyghur citizens, but also Turkey has historical and cultural ties with Uyghur people. Mao`s China occupied the lands of the Republic of East Turkistan in 1949. Assimilation and massacre policies of China still continued today over Uyghurs. Their fundamental rights are banned by Chinese governors. Of course, this disturbs Turkey and Turkish people. When Turkey criticizes China for the policies over Uyghurs, China responded it very strictly.
On one side, there are good statements of officials about Turkish-Chinese relations, and when we look at these statements, we see Turkey and China as an opportunity for each other. On the other side, there are some facts and statistics that show us Turkey and China can see each other as a threat.
3-  The East Turkistan issue


The East Turkistan, also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, lies in the center of Asia. Today, this autonomous region borders with China and Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the west, and Tibet to the south. Actually, the East Turkistan suffered too much in the history, and still continues to suffer, today. The East Turkistan Islamic Republic was established in 1933. However, this state collapsed after a joint Russian-Chinese attack in 1934. Then, the Republic of East Turkistan was established in 1944. This state also collapsed after the Chinese-Communist occupation in East Turkistan in 1949.

`In the middle of the 19th century, Russia annexed the three Central Asian khanates of Khiva, Bukhara and Kokand one after another, and set up the "Turkistan Governorship" in the Hezhong (Samarkand) area of Central Asia. Therefore, some people in the West called the Hezhong area "West Turkistan" or "Russian Turkistan," and China's Xinjiang region "East Turkistan"`(Global Times: 2009) The East Turkistan Issue starts with the division of Turkistan by Russians and Chinese and Chinese occupation of Uyghur lands in 19th century. Although, Uyghur people challenge this occupation policy of Chinese people, the last Uyghur state which is the Republic of East Turkistan collapsed in 1949 by Mao`s army.

The East Turkestan
`On August 27, 1949, the leader of the republic, Ahmatjan Qasimi, was reportedly killed in an air crash (the report came from Beijing and Moscow). In actuality, Ahmatjan Qasimi was the target of a political conspiracy set up by Mao Zedong and Stalin. He was killed in the Soviet Union at a secret KGB camp by Lake Baikal, and the Chinese communist army then invaded East Turkistan on October 1, 1949` (Uyghur Web, 2009).

Ahmatjan Qasimi and Abdukerim Abbasov are seemed as a big threat for Soviets and PRC. As in the Ata-Beyit Kyrgyz Massacre in 1936–1937 by Soviet Russians, all the Turkic leaders of the revolution killed by the Soviets and Chinese intelligence services or soldiers.


After the occupation of East Turkistan by Chinese Communists, the big tragic problems start. Genocide, Migration of Han Chinese to East Turkistan for assimilation, abortion to Uyghur women, nuclear test on Taklimakan Desert, Violation of human rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech (the right to education in mother tongue), organ trade, slave trade are the main problems of Uyghurs since 1949. East Turkistan became an autonomous region of China in 1955 and called as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) by Chinese governors. `Although East Turkestan is called “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” there is no self-rule or self government for the Uyghurs` (World Uyghur Congress, 2011). So, it was actually an autonomous region just on the paper without real autonomous rights. Moreover, between the years of 1966 and 1976, PRC applied a Chinese Cultural Revolution policy, and with this policy, the important Turkic and Uyghur historical documents, agreements, and books are burned by the PRC. For controlling Uyghur people, Chinese officials arrest Uyghur people easily without no reason and they torture these innocent people in the police stations for days. `According to Amnesty International, in the year of 1997 alone, more than 100,000 Uyghurs were arrested throughout the country` (ibid, 2011).

Sinicization policy, religious repression, execution and extra judicial killings, torture, arrests, assimilation policies and massacre, paper autonomy, media freedom, health care and nuclear testing of People`s Republic of China affected Uyghur people in daily life. So, Uyghurs are heavily discriminated against in terms of their socio-economic, military, and political status. After the September 11 incident, the struggle for international anti-terrorism started in the world and Muslim people are accused as terrorist in the international arena. Then, Chinese government started to show Uyghur people as terrorist, because they were also Muslim and Chinese government started to use this situation to oppress Uyghur people.

4- The Relations Between The Republic of Turkey and the East Turkistan in the Shadow of the People`s Republic of China


When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Turkey`s interests in Central Asia started to appeared, clearly. Turkey was the first country to recognize the independence of Central Asian Turkic Republics. In addition to this, Turkey focused on the problems of East Turkistan, officially and unofficially in 1990s.


`Isa Yusuf Alptekin, one of the leaders in East Turkistan, had the opportunity to meet all the political party leaders, deputies and bureaucrats in Ankara in 1991; here human rights violations, the problem of assimilation and the policy of Chinese oppression in East Turkistan were discussed in detail, with a new relationship being established between the two nations` (Dag, 2010: 506).


Meanwhile, the Chinese government sent warnings to Turkey in regard to the East Turkistan issue, which had begun to occupy more space on Turkey`s national agenda than it had in the past. The Chinese government stated that the messages that Turkey had sent about East Turkistan were considered to be meddling in the internal affairs of China, and responded by indicating the international support for the PKK. So, Turkey is forced to cut the supports to Uyghur people officially by the PRC. `Mesut Yilmaz, the prime minister, banned official participation in East Turkistan activities, and changed the name of a park in Sultanahmet that had been named after Isa Yusuf Alptekin, the great Uyghur leader, and banned the use of East Turkistan flags` (ibid: 508).

`On 5 February 1997, peaceful demonstrations took place in the city of Gulja (Yining) in XUAR. Hundreds, possibly thousands, lost their lives or were seriously injured. Large numbers of people were arrested during the demonstrations and their aftermath. Many detainees were beaten or otherwise tortured. An unknown number remain unaccounted for. During the crackdown, the Uighur community living in the XUAR was targeted` (Amnesty International, 2007).


Turkey did not stop this massacre that is occurred in Gulja city of East Turkeys in 1997. Turkey`s economic conditions and power of political pressure is not strong at that time. Also, Chinese threat of supporting PKK against Turkey affected it deeply. Same event happened in July 5th 2009, the Urumqi massacre by PRC. In the awake of the unrest, Rebiya Kadeer who is the president of the World Uyghur Congress and respectful leader of all Uyghurs in the world,   showed up in the Turkish channels and explained her disappointment of getting Turkish visa which was applied two times but request were denied. Then, Turkish people put pressure on the government to grant her a visa. After the pressure of the public, Turkish prime minister declared that there is no problem giving her a visa if she applies. This event happened, because Turkey has strong economic relations with PRC. The business groups and companies in Turkey do not want to lose China when Chinese economy booms in the world. PRC tried to use economic cooperation card to Turkey for preventing the any reaction on the Urumqi Massacre. Turkish President Abdullah Gül visited Urumqi where is the capital of East Turkistan in 28 June 2009, one week before the Urumqi massacre, and has become the first Turkish president visiting Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. This visit could be anxious for PRC about Uyghurs. Because, this is wrong for the assimilation policy or so called accommodation process of PRC in the East Turkistan. One week later after the Turkish president`s visit to Urumqi, the Urumqi massacre started in 5th July of 2009. This cannot be coincidence. So, maybe we cannot mention about the official support of Turkey to the East Turkistan, because of these reasons, but Turkish people did not break off the relations with Uyghur people.

Conclusion

These triangle relations is very important, because it explains that how do Turkey and China see each other, today. We can understand from this point that they see each other as threat or opportunity. In this paper, there are some analyzes on this topic for indicating the real dimension in Chinese-Turkish relations and the status quo in the East Turkistan. It started with the brief historical background of Turkish-Chinese relations. When we look at the historical background of Turkish-Chinese relations, we see that it has very deep roots. However, these relationships are driven, sometimes friendly and sometimes went to war in the history. Then, the answers of the question of how do Turkey and China sees each other, today is analyzed. On one side, there are good statements of officials about Turkish-Chinese relations, and when we look at these statements, we see Turkey and China as an opportunity for each other. On the other side, there are some facts and statistics that show us Turkey and China can see each other as a threat. We cannot understand the real dimension of the relations just from the official statements; the acts of the states show this. So, economic and political relations are analyzed between Turkey and China since 1971. The improving economic cooperation and rising rivalry between Turkey and China in some fields of economy and trade at the same time since 1971 is seemed clearly. On the other hand, the Uyghur problem and the effects of this problem on Turkish-Chinese relations is another reality. So, the paper also focused on the details of the triangle relations between the Republic of Turkey, People`s Republic of China and the East Turkistan. The Relations Between The Republic of Turkey and the East Turkistan in the Shadow of the People`s Republic of China is analyzed. Economic, political and sociological dimensions of the East Turkistan issue are examined in the paper. 
Turkey and Turkish people want to support and help Uyghur people, but there are some difficulties to make it real. The cost of economic and political support to Uyghur people is very heavy for Turkey, and Chinese threat of supporting PKK terrorist organization against Turkey restricts Turkey`s possible support for East Turkistan. In addition to this, cutting international support in the United Nations (UN) also affects Turkey, because China is one of the permanent members of Security Council of the UN, and she has veto power. Because of these reasons, we cannot mention about the official support of Turkey to the East Turkistan but Turkish people did not break off the relations with Uyghur people.


 Isa Burak GONCA



Bibliography

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Dag, Ahmet E. (2010). Turkey and the Islamic World in the Solution of the East Turkistan Problem, Free East Turkistan Symposium. Istanbul, IHH Arastirma Yayinlar Birimi.
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