China is concerned about the creation of an Organization of Turkish Governments, calling it a regional threat. A week ago, members of a regional body called the Turkic Council or Council of Turkic-speaking Countries met in Istanbul, Turkey. The leaders of the council,
who witnessed for the first time the presence of the Turkmen president as an observer member, decided, at the expense of China’s regional policies, to change the organization to the Turkic Governments Organization (TDT), comprising Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. Quoted in the Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper, Dr. Yang Jin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes the move is a threat to regional stability.
He said that “since Erdogan took office, there has been a clear change in terms of Ankara’s foreign policy. Turkey was eager to join the European Union. But after decades of diplomatic efforts by Ankara, Turkey realized that the EU would not really embrace it. This proves that its intention to be a member of the EU has failed.
“After that, Erdogan’s foreign diplomacy tended to diversify. Turkey started to look for a diplomatic framework outside the EU. It tried to look for new allies and partners, especially in terms of the history, culture and ideology of its neighboring countries. It tends to exploit the notion of Turk to establish a new diplomatic circle. The countries of Central Asia are examples of this,” he explained.
And he continued that Ankara intends to strengthen its ties with its neighboring countries. It also seeks to expand its own regional and international influence and status and, if possible, to forge a political and military alliance with Turkey at its center.
According to him, there are unfounded claims that the Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region belong to the same ethnic group as the Turks. This is totally false. Xinjiang has been a multi-ethnic region since ancient times. The Uyghur people speak a language that belongs to the Turkic. But they have no other relations with Turkey.
Yang Jin warns: “The organization may lead to a new rise of panturcism, which is quite risky. This could affect regional stability and security. Three Central Asian countries are members of the Organization of Turkic Governments while one has observer status. These are multi-ethnic countries, where some people do not speak Turkish. This organization could trigger the rise of extreme nationalism, which could intensify ethnic conflicts and harm regional stability and security.” It is true that, in recent years, Erdogan’s government has taken an interventionist stance towards the Turkmen of Iraq and Syria, and has even openly supported the Crimean Tatars by questioning its attachment to Russia.
However, wanting to gain economic benefits from strengthening relations with Beijing, Erdogan has opted for an ambiguous policy towards the Uighurs of East Turkestan. The Chinese are therefore concerned about any possible future Turkish approach to the Uyghurs, since they are well aware that even if Erdogan’s government is temporarily and conveniently silent on this issue, several political and cultural parties and institutions are sensitive to it. The point worth reflecting on is that the AKP was always cautious about the Uyghurs, but just a few days ago Erdogan demanded that the de facto and unofficial authority of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus be included in the Organization of Turkish Governments. In this new post-Nagorno-Karabakh context, China is keeping a close eye on Turkey’s ethnocentric moves.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, which initially strongly opposed the various interpretations of Turkish nationalism, is now completely trapped in this nationalism. The party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has in some cases even surpassed Turkey’s far-right nationalists. In any case, if Erdogan insists on the concepts of identity and race in the so-called “Organization of Turkish Governments” instead of relying on trade convergence and cooperation in the economic fields, he will end up provoking the ire not only of Turkey’s neighbors, but also of powers such as China. This will have disastrous consequences for Turkey’s foreign policy.