Policy Studies 53
Ethno-Diplomacy:The Uyghur Hitch in Sino-Turkish Relations
About this IssueBeginning in 1949, China responded to
so-called Uyghur separatism and the questfor Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) independ-ence as a domestic problem. Since themid-1990s, however, when it became awareof the international aspects of this prob-lem, Beijing has begun to pressure Turkeyto limit its support for Uyghur activism.Aimed not only at cultural preservationbut also at Eastern Turkestan independ-ence, Uyghur activism remained unnoticeduntil the 1990s, despite the establishmentin 1971 of Sino-Turkish diplomatic rela-tions. It has gathered momentum as aresult of Chinas post-Mao opening, theSoviet disintegration, increased Uyghurmigration, the growing Western concernfor human rights, and the widespread useof the Internet. Until the mid-1990sTurkeys leaders managed to defy Chinesepressure because they sympathized withthe Uyghurs, were personally committedto their leader sa Yusuf Alptekin, andhoped to restore Turkish influence inCentral Asia. By late 1995, however, boththat hope and Alptekin were dead, andChina was becoming an influential, self-confident economic power. At this timeAnkara chose to comply with Beijingsdemands, which were backed by increasedtrade, growing military collaboration, andChinas veiled threats of support forKurdish nationalism. Consequently, TurkishUyghurs suffered a serious blow, and someof their organizations had to relocateabroad, outside Beijings reach. Nonethe-less, Uyghur activism continues in Turkeyand has become even more pronouncedworldwide. Possibly less concerned aboutthe Uyghur threat than it suggests,Beijing may simply be using the Uyghursto intimidate and manipulate Turkey andother governments, primarily those inCentral Asia.
About the AuthorYitzhak Shichor is a professor in the Department of Asian Studies and theSchool of Political Sciences at the University of Haifa. He can be contactedat [email protected]
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acy: The U
yghur Hitch in Sino-Turkish R
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Ethno-Diplomacy: The Uyghur Hitch in Sino-Turkish Relations
Policy Studies 53___________
Ethno-Diplomacy:The Uyghur Hitch in Sino-Turkish Relations
Copyright 2009 by the East-West Center
Ethno-Diplomacy: The Uyghur Hitch in Sino-Turkish Relationsby Yitzhak Shichor
ISBN: 978-1-932728-81-1 (online version)ISSN: 1547-1330 (online version)
East-West Center 1601 East-West Rd.Honolulu, HI 96848Tel: 808-944-7111E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.eastwestcenter.orgOnline at: www.eastwestcenter.org/policystudies
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Dedicated to Professor Jacob M. LandauScholar, gentleman, and a long-standing source of inspiration
ContentsList of Acronyms vii
Executive Summary ix
Sino-Turkish Relations: The Legacy 5
Pre-Republic China 5
Republican China 7
The Peoples Republic of China 9
Uyghur Nationalism in Turkey 12
Uyghur Presence in Turkey 13
Uyghur Activism in Turkey 17
Uyghurs in Sino-Turkish Relations 20
Chinas Displeasure, Turkeys Defiance 24
Chinas Pressure, Turkeys Compliance 28
Bait in Beijings Trap 36
Conclusion: The Limits of Chinas Ethno-Diplomacy 45
List of AcronymsAKP Adalet ve Kalknma Partisi (Justice and
CCP Chinese Communist Party
CENTO Central Treaty Organization
ETF Eastern Turkestan Foundation
ETIB Eastern Turkestan Information Bulletin
ETNC Eastern Turkestan National Center [Congress]
ETIR Eastern Turkestan Islamic Republic
EU European Union
FBIS Foreign Broadcast Information Service
FNSS FMC [BAE]-Nurol Defense Systems Inc.
MHP Milliyeti Hareket Partisi (Nationalist Action Party)
MLRS Multiple Launch Rocket System
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NGO nongovernmental organization
NPC National Peoples Congress
PLA Peoples Liberation Army
PRC Peoples Republic of China
SCO Shanghai Cooperation Organization
TKP(ML) Communist Party of Turkey (Marxist-Leninist)
UN United Nations
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
U.S. United States
Executive SummaryBeginning in 1949, China considered, and dealt with, so-calledUyghur separatism and the quest for Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang)independence as a domestic problem. Since the early 1990s, however,Beijing has begun to recognize the international aspects of this problemand to deal with its external manifestations. This new policy has affect-ed Chinas relations with Turkey, which has ideologically inspiredUyghur nationalism, offered sanctuary to Uyghur refugees, and provid-ed moral and material support to Eastern Turkestan movements, organ-izations, and activities.
The origins of this support go back to the late nineteenth centu-ry, when the Chinese and the Ottoman empirespreviously isolat-edbriefly competed (in a virtual rather than a real way) for sover-eignty and control over southwestern Xinjiang. By that time bothempires had already declined, and their final collapse in 1911 and 1922further reduced the potential for friction. Although Turkey demon-strated sympathy and encouragement from afar when Uyghur nation-alism began to emerge in the 1930s, Istanbul remained a bystander andcould not, and would not, provide any real support. By the late 1940sBeijing and Ankara had grown further apart, with China becomingpart of the Soviet bloc while Turkey joined the Western alliance.Shortly afterward the two clashed in the Korean War, which woulddamage their relationship for many years, and perhaps to this day.
Even before, and especially since, the early 1950s, Turkey has host-ed Uyghur leaders and refugees from the Peoples Republic of China,who have set up associations and organizations aimed at the preserva-
tion of their culture while at the same time never losing sight of theirgoal of Eastern Turkestan independence. By using Turkey, whichfavored these activities, as their headquarters, Uyghur leaders sought topromote the Eastern Turkestan cause, yet they have had little success.The absence of Sino-Turkish diplomatic relations, Chinas internation-al isolation, the Western disregard of human rights, and the technolog-ical limits of the media have all thwarted these efforts. This situationmight have changed in 1971, when Sino-Turkish diplomatic relationswere at long last established, but it did not. For about twenty years,until the early to mid-1990s, these relations remained marginal forboth. China still considered its Uyghur problem a domestic affair, andEastern Turkestan activities in Turkey continued. Both of th