Good Example Of Essay On Uyghur Issue In Turkey - China Relations

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: China, Turkey, Middle East, Relationships, Countries, Issue, Politics, Diplomacy

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/21

“International politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power”

― Hans J. Morgenthau
The two regional powers – Turkey and People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) – have both competed to lead the Central Asia and at the same time aimed to find areas of common interests for quite a long period. For the purposes of this research, the relations between the two states during Cold War and post Cold War period will be analyzed and the issue of Uyghur in respect of these relations will be given special attention.
Following the Second World War the paths of Turkey and China on international arena diverged at some point. Ankara aimed to join a newly created Nato thus initiating its participation in the Korean War alongside the United Nations and the U.S. against the Communist China and North Korea itself. “As hostilities began, Ankara considered the North Korean invasion of South Korea, presumably authorized by Moscow, as a naked Communist act of aggression that could, and would, affect other countries (Turkey included) and should therefore be stopped” (“Ethno-Diplomacy” 9). Besides, Turkey subsequently joined Nato thus allowing foreign forces (American forces first of all) to deploy on its territory to protect members of the bloc from the communist bloc, which included China.
The negative attitude of Turkey towards “Red China” was forming on a step-by-step basis, which to the much extent was triggered by the Turkish hostility towards the Communist USSR. It didn’t take Turkey long to launch the respective propaganda to create a negative image of China in national media. The Chinese were depicted as evil, immoral and barbaric; the political regime of the country was imposed on masses by the ruling minority; and last but not least important – there was an emphasis on the Chinese repression of its Muslim minorities (“Ethno-Diplomacy” 10). At the same time, China regarded Turkey as a part of an aggressive pro-Western bloc.
The subsequent years, Turkey was consistently supporting American model of relations with the regional countries, including Korea, launching campaigns against Communist countries, while China urged Turkey to adopt a “peaceful and independent policy of neutrality” (“Ethno-Diplomacy” 11). China was pointing to the negative consequences for the Turkish industry, agriculture and economy in general as a result of American flooding of Turkish markets with goods. At the same time, Turkey stressed the issue of persecution of Turkic nationalities in China on the part of its authorities.
As a result, of the domestic and foreign policy of the two countries following in the period after the Second World War their relations were precluded for a long period. And one of the issues that was raised within this period on certain occasions was the Muslim minority, residing in China.
Nevertheless, “Turkey’s relations with China have followed a fluctuating course since 1971, when the relations between the two countries officially started, until today” (Çolakoğlu).
Subsequently, the countries managed to improve relations. “On August 4, 1971, Turkey finally recognized the PRC, leading to the establishment of full diplomatic relations. In October of that year Ankara supported China’s admission to the UN and its becoming a permanent member of the Security Council” (“Ethno-Diplomacy” 12).To illustrate the enhancing cooperation between the two states, it’s worth noting that
“during the 1980s, when both countries had begun to integrate with world markets, Turkey saw China as a single huge market with enormous untapped opportunities. The idea back then was “sell a single orange to every Chinese person and become rich,” however, both bureaucrats and businessmen soon found out that penetration of the Chinese market was not that easy. Businessmen going to China to export their products mostly failed to do so, but they saw the opportunities offered by low-cost Chinese products and returned home as importers. As a result, starting from the mid-1990s, Turkey’s economic approach to China was marked by the motivation of short-term, individual profits. In this period some Turkish companies invested in China and commenced production there, but they numbered no more than a handful” (Atli 98).
Now let us turn to one of the sensitive issues of the bilateral relations of the mentioned countries that is mentioned above – the relations between the two countries in respect of the Muslim minority in China, i.e. the Uyghur issue.
“Uyghurs are a Turkic-Muslim ethnic group which has been living in the territory of East Turkestan for centuries. This region was reoccupied by the Qing dynasty of China in the mid-18th century and in 1884 this territory became a Chinese province named Xinjiang” (“The Uyghurs and China”). Following the civil war and establishment of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949, this province was reorganized as the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region (“The Uyghurs and China”).
Now there are more than 10 million Uyghurs living in a Chinese province Xinjiang. This ethnos also resides abroad China. Uyghurs live in a number of areas of former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan (243 thousands), Kyrgyzstan (50 thousands), Uzbekistan (20 thousands), Turkmenistan (3 thousands) and Russia (4 thousands). Uyghurs’ ethnic group (40 thousands) also resides in Turkey.
The precise number of people is “difficult to verify, partly because of the occasional similarity between Uyghurs and the people of other central Asian nations (primarily Uzbeks), and their gradual assimilation into the local population” (“The Uyghurs and China”).
On 12 October, 1933 when China was convulsed with civil war, Uyghurs established their own state which existed till 1934. However, when Chinese and Soviet armies entered East Turkestan its statehood was terminated.
In 1944 there was proclaimed Eastern Republic of Turkestan one more time which managed to exist until 1949 with the support of the Soviet Union.
“Uyghur diaspora communities have formed their own associations (occasionally more than one) in every area they have settled. These have the aims of preserving Uyghur collective identity (i.e. culture and language), and sustaining and promoting shared national aspirations - ultimately, independence for East Turkestan” (“The Uyghurs and China”).
These goals could be regarded as Uyghurs’ aspirations outside the community. At the same time, their aspirations have been more so to say humble inside the community, they have aimed “to preserve collective identity, to revive the memory of the two defunct Eastern Turkestan republics, and to promote Uyghur culture and language” ( “Ethno-Diplomacy” 17).
There is the World Uyghur Congress, which “represents most Uyghur diaspora associations; it promotes a moderate agenda underlain by a quest for human rights, democracy and self-determination, without mentioning independence” (“The Uyghurs and China”).
The Uyghur issue has been one of the priorities not only in Turkish-Sino relations, this issue was also earlier raised in Sino-Soviet relations. Following the worsening of relations between Moscow and Beijing, the Soviet Union used Uyghurs as a tool to influence China, as Uyghurs are known for their strive to independence.
What is striking about the peculiarities of this ethnos is that Uyghurs have never been assimilated with China. Moreover, they have opposed Chinese rule in their land Xinjiang and constantly demanded independence, thus they could be regarded as anti-Chinese in political and nationalist terms (“Ethno-Diplomacy”).
China has always been concerned that the Uyghur issue may be used to undermine its statehood due to the fact that this ethnic minority lives in a community and as it has been noted is very antagonist to Chinese authorities.
“Beijing’s tough reaction reflects its growing concern about the effective activities of Uyghur diaspora groups, which include petitions, demonstrations, briefings of parliamentarians and government officials, a sophisticated use of the internet at least sixty websites are devoted to the issue of Uyghur persecution, the abuse of human rights in Xinjiang, Beijing’s “strike hard” campaigns and its denial of self-determination” (“The Uyghurs and China”).
In a lot of cases Beijing attempted associate Uyghurs to international terrorists. Nowadays the Chinese authorities state that Uyghurs participate in ISIL, which is a serious threat to international peace and security.
Until 1980s Turkey did not pay much attention to the Uyghur issue in China. However, when China declared its Open Door Policy and claimed its readiness to cooperate with democratic countries, the perspective of the mentioned issue changed.
The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted into the creation of newly independent Turkic states which inevitable caused to excitement in Turkey. In fact, at some point Turkish public expected multinational China to collapse in the same manner as the mentioned empire (Çolakoğlu). At the same time, the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of newly independent states in Central Asia was a catalyst for the next surge of separatist sentiment in Xinjiang on the part of Uyghurs. The very fact of gaining independence and creation of the state of ethnically and religiously similar peoples in Central Asia had a significant impact on the mood of the local population in Xinjiang – Uighurs, who saw events in the post-Soviet area as a clear example in the achievement of national independence.
In this respect, Turkey started engaging into “ethnic diplomacy”, which included vivid interest in the mentioned issue in its relations with China. Turkey aimed at being the leader in Central Asia and it chose Pan-Turkism as its foreign policy in order to win the hearts of fellow Turks of the region hitting on shared religion, culture and history.
For many years Turkey has granted alternative home (temporary or permanent) to a lot of Uyghurs: “some of them arrived on their own, while others have been supported by the Turkish government or the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the strong support of the United States” (“Ethno-Diplomacy” 15). “Until the mid-1990s, Ankara gave an almost free hand to Uighur diaspora associations in Turkey demanding the liberation of Xinjiang from Chinese rule” (Atli 99).
The reaction of Chinese authorities to this policy was predictable: pan-Turkism is regarded “as not only a reactionary, racist, chauvinist, and bourgeois-nationalist ideology that spread under the auspices and with the collusion of imperialist powers, but also a means to create unrest and sow discord among China’s nationalities” (“Ethno-Diplomacy” 21).
Still Chinese leaders together with the government-controlled media had to deal with the challenge somehow. In their turn they have linked Uyghur “subversive and terrorist activities” in Xinjiang and other parts of China to interference of other states and organizations – so-called external forces – without clear identification thereof. Also Beijing has not been in a rush to put the blame on Turkey. Chinese officials would avoid raising the Uyghur issue in their direct contacts with the Turkish government whenever it is possible though they had no doubts that Turkey was responsible for fueling national aspirations of Uyghurs.
Nevertheless, China has also used this issue for its own benefit: it has been a stepping stone to build relations with regional countries judging from their attitude towards this internal problem of Beijing. For instance, the Chinese used their Muslim the Hui, to promote relations with the Middle East, jst like they would similarly use Uyghurs (“Ethno-Diplomacy” 13).
Moreover, “Ankara’s policy reflects not only Chinese pressure but also its own Kurdish challenge; the Turks cannot support Uyghur separatism while denying the Kurds their right to self-determination. Beijing is fully aware of Ankara’s Kurdish predicament––and also its Cyprus problem––and has occasionally exploited it” (“Ethno-Diplomacy” 12).
In recent years when China claimed its place under the sun as one of the most economically powerful international players the perspective of its relations with Turkey has also changed. In fact, Turkey now sees China as one of the key players it needs to be friends with in order to become a global player. Economic partnership with a major powerhouse is a now a priority for Turkey therefore such a thorny issue in bilateral relations of these countries as Uyghurs needs to be revised and reconsidered (Atli). “Since the mid-1990s China has dramatically expanded its economic relations with Turkey, leading to a Turkish trade deficit of more than U.S.$14 billion in 2008” (“Ethno-Diplomacy” 12). Later, the figures proved to be even more promising:
“In 2011, Turkish-Chinese two-way trade totaled $24.2 billion, compared with $19.2 billion the previous year and a mere $1.1 billion 10 years earlier, in 2001. China’s share in Turkey’s total trade is currently 6.4 percent, up from 1.5 percent a decade earlier, and the change appears even more significant considering that the 21-fold increase in the volume of Turkish-Chinese trade between 2001 and 2011 occurred over a period when Turkey’s total trade volume increased only five-fold, from $72 billion to $375 billion” (Atli 97).
In this regarded, Turkey has chosen an official stance to oppose any separatist activities against territorial integrity of People’s Republic of China and to maintain mutual cooperation and understanding with the Chinese government (Atli).
Besides enhancing economic cooperation, the two countries cooperate in military sphere as well. In fact, starting high-ranking officials’ visits in the 1980s, including the presidents and prime ministers of these two countries, Turkey and China have come “to a point of close military ties, with the regular exchange of visits from the top generals of both nations” (Sariibrahimoglu). “The first concrete step on defense industry between Turkey and China was taken in 1996: Turkey and China signed an agreement on purchasing medium-range WS-1 missiles which cost 150 million dollars and on joint production in Turkey” (Çolakoğlu).
China has also been interested in establishing close relations with Turkey. “Even though Turkey was not as influential as China in world politics and economy, Turkey had a considerable importance in terms of the geopolitics of West Asia, the Balkans and North Africa. Therefore, China needed to receive the support of regional powers such as Turkey in order to be able to pursue its Eurasian policies” (Çolakoğlu).
However, at the same time it cannot be stated that Turkey traded fellow ethnic Turks for mutually beneficial and profitable relations with the neighbor. Turkish government still mildly defends the economic and cultural rights of Uyghurs as Chinese citizens. “Ankara wants the Uyghurs to assume a cohesive role between China and Turkey, just like Bulgarian Turks created a friendship bridge between Turkey and Bulgaria in the post-1990s” (Çolakoğlu). Thus Turkey manages to keep the finger on the button of this issue of a rapidly rising China.
Therefore, the relations between China and Turkey experienced ups and downs throughout the Cold War and post Cold War period, which once again proves that there almost no standoffs in international relations. Hostile attitude of the two countries changed as time passed and as a result a still Communist China is now a partner of a still Nato member Turkey. Moreover, problematic issues could also be put on the altar of mutually beneficial relations of the countries. In respect of Turkey and China several factors influenced the shift towards improving relations: “first, a paradigm shift in the approach to bilateral economic relations; second, a sense of mutual understanding between the two governments with regard to the Uighur issue; and third, increasing acquaintance and cultural affinity between the Turkish and Chinese people” (Atli 96).
Therefore, failed states and nations fighting for their independences and ethnic minorities have often been a playing card for powerful and influential states to extract the sought concessions from their counterparts. The countries have always preserving their vital interests using different methods and tools.
The Uyghur issue has not become an exception in the relations of China and Turkey, two major players of Central Asia region. This issue has been used to intimidate and manipulate at some point, and of course as a tool for influence. Two countries benefited from occasionally putting this issue on a regional agenda.
“In sum, as strategic partners, Turkey and China are now focusing on developing their economic relations on a long-term, sustainable and mutually beneficial basis, a trend that has positive spillover effects on the political realm” (Atli 98).
Nevertheless, the problem of ethnic minorities should not be generally neglected by countries. Any religious, national, and especially economic problems can be solved only socially, i.e. on the basis of justice that needs to prevail in a society. Thus inequality should be eliminated and the minority should be granted genuine rights, which are equal to the majority’s rights. This is a tool to deal with separatism and moreover it is a way to promote mutual enrichment of cultures, languages, economy.

Works Cited

Atli, Altay. “The future of Turkey’s relations with China”. Turkish Review. 2-6: 96-101, 2012. Print.
Çolakoğlu, Selçuk. “Turkey-China relations: rising partnership”. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. <>.
Sariibrahimoglu, Lale. “Growing Turco-Chinese relations face ups and downs on the Turkic Uighurs of China”. Hurriyet Daily News. 18 Apr. 2000. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. <>.
Shichor, Yitzhak. “Ethno-Diplomacy: The Uyghur hitch in Sino-Turkish relations”. East-West Center, 29: 1-85. 2009. Print.
Shichor, Yitzhak. “The Uyghurs and China: lost and found nation”. Open Democracy. 6 Jul. 2009. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

Cite this page
Choose cite format:
  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago
  • ASA
  • IEEE
  • AMA
WePapers. (2020, December, 21) Good Example Of Essay On Uyghur Issue In Turkey - China Relations. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from
"Good Example Of Essay On Uyghur Issue In Turkey - China Relations." WePapers, 21 Dec. 2020, Accessed 30 March 2023.
WePapers. 2020. Good Example Of Essay On Uyghur Issue In Turkey - China Relations., viewed March 30 2023, <>
WePapers. Good Example Of Essay On Uyghur Issue In Turkey - China Relations. [Internet]. December 2020. [Accessed March 30, 2023]. Available from:
"Good Example Of Essay On Uyghur Issue In Turkey - China Relations." WePapers, Dec 21, 2020. Accessed March 30, 2023.
WePapers. 2020. "Good Example Of Essay On Uyghur Issue In Turkey - China Relations." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved March 30, 2023. (
"Good Example Of Essay On Uyghur Issue In Turkey - China Relations," Free Essay Examples -, 21-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 30-Mar-2023].
Good Example Of Essay On Uyghur Issue In Turkey - China Relations. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 21, 2020. Accessed March 30, 2023.

Share with friends using:

Related Premium Essays
Contact us
Chat now