Saturday, July 11, 2009

Turkey and China

It is difficult to understand the rhetoric, now highly charged, coming from Prime Minister Erdogan, who referred to the crack-down on Uighurs in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang a “genocide.” That is not a term that Turkey tosses around easily, given the issue with the Armenian claims of genocide by the Ottoman Empire.

Clearly, there is domestic pressure on the ruling AKP to take a strong stand, but aside from that it is difficult to understand why Turkey would deliberately poke China, a major trading partner, in the eye with an inflammatory condemnation and statement that it would raise it in the UN Security Council. The latter is unlikely since China would need to give permission to raise the issue, which is clearly considers internal.

So, what's up with Turkey? I understand that the Uighurs are Turkic and Muslim. But Turkey has even less connection with them than the other Central Asia Turkic peoples. I suspect that the escalation is due to local politics as the AKP wants to establish its leadership in the Muslim world closer to home.

China's response has, so far, been dismissive. Whether this escalates to involve the trade and political relationship between Turkey and China is the next stage.

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