China, Turkey discuss ‘strategic relationship of cooperation’
China will host Turkey’s top diplomat in Beijing as part of an effort to advance their “strategic relationship of cooperation,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday. “In recent years, the China-Turkey relations have been growing steadily,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said while announcing the trip. As Washington Examiner writes in the article China, Turkey to discuss ‘strategic relationship of cooperation’, Cavugsoglu’s trip comes amid Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s growing relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Russia and China are also mulling an expansion of their cooperation.
“In recent years, the China-Turkey relations have been growing steadily with frequent high-level exchanges, ever deeper economic and trade cooperation, colorful cultural and people-to-people exchanges and close communication and coordination on international and regional issues,” Geng said. “[The diplomats] will exchange views on bilateral ties, cooperation in various areas and international and regional issues. China stands ready to work with Turkey to move forward the China-Turkey strategic relationship of cooperation.”
Erdogan leads a key member of NATO, but disagreements with the U.S. over the counter-Islamic State strategy in Syria, combined with his authoritarian tilt and interest in purchasing Russian weapons systems, have strained the alliance.
“They have been an important NATO partner,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said of Turkey during a recent hearing. “We need their behavior to reflect the objectives of NATO, and that’s what we’re diligently working to do: to get them to rejoin NATO, in a way, with their actions, consistent with what we’re trying to achieve in NATO. And not take actions that undermine its efforts.”
Still, there are significant impediments to close partnership between Turkey and China, according to a former Turkish lawmaker and critic of Erdogan. “While both parties look favorably toward increased economic relations, there are political tensions, especially concerning Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs and Ankara’s role in recruiting Uighur jihadists as proxy fighters in Syria,” Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner.
The Uighurs, as a Turkic and Muslim people, are a linguistic and religious minority in Communist China. They face “severe” repression in China, according to the latest State Department report on human rights. And Erdogan’s support for Uighur fighters in Syria has raised fears in Beijing of terrorist attacks upon their return to China.
“As long as Erdogan’s foreign policy is shaped by Islamism, there will be limits to Sino-Turkish cooperation, and economic and political relations will remain compartmentalized,” Erdemir said.