Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s state visit to China later this month is intended to show that Turkey, as an international power, has interests well beyond its western alliances. But Ankara’s strong backing of China’s Uighur Muslim minority clouds the prospects for Turkish-Chinese relations.
In 2012, Turkey, already a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, became a “dialogue partner” of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security grouping that comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Ankara has strengthening bilateral ties with all the SCO members; Erdoğan has depicted the SCO as a potential alternative to the European Union.
The SCO’s economic component is slim, yet, initially, both China and Russia warmly welcomed Turkey’s interest. In 2013, Turkey chose a Chinese company to supply $3.4 billion worth of missiles, but the deal has not been finalized.
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.