Op-Ed Contributors

Taking Sino-Turkish relations forward

By Ahmet Davutoglu (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-02 07:57
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Turkey and China are located at opposing ends of Asia. Notwithstanding this physical distance, Turkish and Chinese cultures have in fact many similarities. Through Mevlana and Confucius, we learn from the ancient wisdom of humanity to open up our mind and spirit to the light rising from the East. We are mutually benefiting from Mevlana's teaching and Confucian wisdom whose adherence to tolerance as the bulwark of a harmonious society is all the more significant nowadays. Our nations share a long past cemented by the turning of centuries. They have influenced each other in three distinct periods in history.

The first period goes back to 2,000 years ago when Turks lived in the steppes of Mongolia, China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Siberia and eastern part of Altai Mountains. Our forefathers lived side by side with the Chinese people and learned from each other. The founding elements of our history stem from this part of the world. Hence, the word "Turk" can be found firstly in Chinese sources. There are striking similarities between classical Turkish and Chinese music instruments. For instance "kanun" resembles "guzheng" and "ud" corresponds to "piba". Cultural and historical relations between the Turkish tribes and the Chinese dynasties played crucial role in the build up of Turkish heritage.

The second period was when Turks migrated to the west and settled in Anatolia. Merchants shuttled between Turkey and China through the Silk Road carrying not only goods but also customs, news, technology, culture and people. Anatolia served as a gateway for exchanges between China, Europe and the Middle East during that period. A rich variety of porcelain and other precious ornaments presented as gifts by the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties to the Ottoman sultans now exhibited in the Topkapi Palace .

The third period started at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a difficult chapter in our history when we fought against imperialist powers and cultivated our relations as two sovereign new states. Although both countries were in different camps during World War I, they both rejected the war's outcome. China refused to sign the Versailles Treaty as a victor and Turkey objected to the Svres Treaty.

Our historical experiences expose striking parallelisms: both countries generated their own solutions with their home grown leaders and they raised the welfare level of their people. They both assumed their rightful place in the international community as beacons of stability and modernity. Today, both Turkey and China are emerging developing countries with significant potential.

As we are leaving behind the first decade of the new century, there is a new Turkey on the world scene. As the 15th largest economy in the world, 6th in Europe, with a continuously growing market for investment, Turkey is on its way to joining the ranks of major global actors by most parameters.

Located at the heart of Eurasia, Turkey enjoys close ties across a vast landscape home to almost every ethnic and religious group on three continents. Furthermore, Turkey is broadening its horizons by opening up to different regions, in particular Asia and Africa.

Turkey is also keen to promote dialogue, interaction, peaceful co-existence, mutual respect between different cultures and faith systems. Conceived from the need to stem the tide of intolerance and polarization, the Alliance of Civilizations initiative was jointly launched by Turkey and Spain under the auspices of the United Nations. Bearing in mind the millenary roots of Chinese civilization, I cannot overemphasize the importance of China's contributions to our efforts as a member of the Alliance's Group of Friends.

Our two millennia old bilateral relations are gaining a new impetus. Last year we witnessed the historic visit of our President, H.E. Mr Abdullah Gl, to China after 14 years. During this visit, President Gl and President Hu Jintao determined the next level of our relations. During Premier Wen Jiabao's recent official visit, our leaders decided to establish and develop a strategic relationship of cooperation. 2011 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and China. Having enjoyed good relations in the political, economic and cultural fields, our countries are moving toward deepening cooperation being ushered in by increasing reciprocal visits as well as agreements that have been signed. The year 2012 will be observed as the "China Culture Year" in Turkey and the year 2013 as the "Turkey Culture Year" in China.

With our friendship rooted in respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, we share similar approaches in global and regional issues under the G20 framework as well as the UN Security Council.

On the regional context, our countries are in close consultation on issues related to the Middle East and Afghanistan. Furthermore, Africa offers a considerable potential for Turkish-Chinese cooperation.

During the World Expo 2010 Shanghai, which has been another great success for China following the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, we were delighted to host over 6 million visitors at the Turkish Pavilion. I hope that the Turkish Pavilion has contributed in the success of the Expo and helped Chinese people to better acquaint themselves with their Turkish friends.

Let me underline that Turkey has been working both at the regional and international level to solve existing problems, prevent conflicts, foster intercultural harmony and contribute to international peace, stability and prosperity. Sharing same goals, Turkey is ready to work more closely with China. Our joint task now is to further deepen and diversify our cooperation by tapping its full potential. I am confident that we will accomplish this mission and together carry the Turkish-Chinese partnership into the next decades of 21st century.

The author is foreign minister of Turkey.

(China Daily 11/02/2010 page9)