Monday, August 20, 2018

Look at China-Turkey ties objectively

Global Times 2018/8/20

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a phone call on Saturday that China supports the Turkish government's efforts to safeguard security and economic stability, adding that Beijing remains ready to protect developing countries and the legitimate rights of rising economies. Cavusoglu said Turkey is ready to strengthen strategic dialogue with China and deepen cooperation with Beijing based on mutual interests.

The raging dispute between Ankara and Washington shows no sign of easing. A growing number of analysts believe the gulf between them is hard to bridge. An all-round diplomacy will turn into Turkey's focus.

As an influential Middle East power, the strategic adjustment of Turkey's diplomacy will impact the globe. Judging from the phone call between Wang and Cavusoglu, Beijing responded positively to Ankara's wish to strengthen strategic communication. China and Turkey have new opportunities to deepen cooperation, especially with respect to the Belt and Road initiative. 

However, it has been noticed that Chinese public opinion has not fully kept up with changes in the Middle East. Some people still hold on to their previous understanding of Turkey and Sino-Turkish ties. They advocated that vigilance against Ankara should override the adjustment of ties amid changes and China should respond indifferently to Turkey's hand of friendship. 

They believe that among all the Middle East countries, Turkey has caused China the most trouble during the last 50 years. Ankara sent its Turkish Brigade to fight alongside the US in the Korean War, hauled the aircraft carrier Varyag through the Bosphorus Straits, and was inconsistent in buying China's HQ-9 missile. It was playing tricks with China.

What's most unacceptable is that Turkey was adding fuel to the Xinjiang question. Some elements in Turkey encouraged separatist sentiment, helped some radicals from Xinjiang illicitly enter the Middle East, and made irresponsible remarks on the ethnic policy in Xinjiang.

China-Turkey relations used to be complicated, but it shouldn't prevent the two countries from expanding strategic communication and cooperation. There is no contradiction between the two countries that can't be resolved. After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited China in 2015, Turkey actively promoted relations with China. The two countries' cooperation left behind disputes. China-Turkey relations are changing for the better.

China shouldn't regard Turkey too simply. China needs the pragmatic vision that accords with China's strength and mission. Turkey has both positive and negative effects on China's national interests and we need to seek advantages and avoid disadvantages.

Turkey may be one of China's strategic partners, while it can play a negative role in the Xinjiang issue. Shaping Turkey as China's strategic partner can prevent Ankara from intervening in Xinjiang. An active policy toward Turkey should be reciprocal.

China and Turkey have no major disputes. Pan-Turkism can't survive in Turkey today. Turkey is facing realistic challenges, some of which are shared by China as well. Beijing should try to be partners with Ankara, as it is a beneficial choice.

Developing a friendly relationship is reciprocal in strategy and economy, but it doesn't mean providing substantial aid to Turkey, which is the largest economy in the Middle East. European countries used to be Turkey's major trade partners, leaving China much space in strengthening economic cooperation with it.

If Chinese society understands this well, public opinion will be more beneficial to the country's communication with Turkey, and will promote the two countries' development and cooperation.

The article is an editorial of the Global Times Monday.