HONOLULU (Aug. 1, 2009)—With tension between China and Turkey mounting over the recent Uyghur ethnic clashes in Western China, a timely new scholarly publication examines the historical friction between the two nations over the Uyghur issue.

Released just yesterday by the East-West Center in Hawai‘i, the policy paper, Ethno-Diplomacy: The Uyghur Hitch in Sino-Turkish Relations by University of Haifa political scientist Yitzhak Shichor , recounts the impacts of Uyghur nationalism on relations between China and Turkey dating back to the 19 th century competition between the Ottoman Empire and Chinese Qing dynasty for control over the region that is now part of Xinjiang Province in China’s far west, but is often referred to by separatist groups as Eastern Turkestan. A pdf of the policy paper can be downloaded free of cost.

The publication comes as Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has called China’s crackdown on Uyghur protests in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi "a kind of genocide," and the Turkish trade minister has urged Turks to boycott Chinese goods. An ethnic minority in China, the predominantly Muslim Uyghur people share linguistic and religious links with Turkey, where many leaders consider them to be the forefathers of primordial Turkism.

Schichor’s policy paper follows the history of Sino-Turkish friction over Uyghur nationalism from the collapse of the Ottoman and Chinese empires in the early 1900s through the rise of Communism in China, the Cold War and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1971, to more recent times, when Turkey’s support of Uyghur separatism had become less prominent as its economic ties with China have expanded.

“It is quite possible that Beijing is in fact less worried about the Uyghur ‘threat’ to China than the impression it creates,” Schichor writes, “but that it uses this appearance of a threat to intimidate and manipulate other governments, primarily those in Central Asia and Turkey.”


The EAST-WEST CENTER is an education and research organization established by the U.S. Congress in 1960 to strengthen relations and understanding among the peoples and nations of Asia, the Pacific, and the United States. The Center contributes to a peaceful, prosperous and just Asia Pacific community by serving as a vigorous hub for cooperative research, education and dialogue on critical issues of common concern to the Asia Pacific region and the United States. Funding for the Center comes from the U.S. government, with additional support provided by private agencies, individuals, foundations, corporations, and the governments of the region.