Debate Magazine

Turkey’s Questionable Choice of Missile System from China

Posted on the 21 October 2013 by Shahalexander
The news that Turkey decided to choose the anti-missile system from China raises  critical concerns among NATO allies. Why did China win the competition among many rivals? Above all, political implication of this decision is serious, if Turkey really is to stay in NATO and maintain ties with the EU. The problem is not just Chinese penetration of NATO air defense system. Turkey is processing the deal through state run CPMIEC (China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation), the company that is sanctioned the US government for violating nonproliferation rules against Iran, North Korea, and Syria, this February. CPMIEC was sanctioned in 2003 for arms sale to Iran (“US-sanctioned Chinese firm wins Turkey missile defense system tender”; September 26, 2013; Hurriyet Daily News). In other words, Turkey is helping a rogue corporation make profits, and defies the code of conduct in the global nonproliferation regime.
Why does Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan make a problematic deal with such a notorious company? The Erdoğan administration pursues independent foreign policy from the West. This is not the only reason for selecting the Chinese missile system over American and European rivals. China is more willing to meet Turkey’s requirement for technology transfer (“Why Turkey’s Buying Chinese Missile Systems”; Diplomat Magazine; September 30, 2013). I would like to call an attention that copyright protection in China is loose, and they use stolen technologies from the West, Russia, and Israel. Therefore, I raise a concern that generous codes for technological transfer can help terrorists to acquire cutting the edge technology. Remember some terrorist organizations like Hezbollah are more well-armed than sovereign states, and the Erdoğan administration is helping such a dangerous company make money.
In addition to technological transfer, Turkey explores economic opportunities in the New Silk Road area through deepening relations with SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) nations. A landmark deal was made in 2010 between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Chinese Prime Minister-then Wen Jiabao to boost bilateral trade. President Xi Jinping reaffirmed it in 2012 before he was inaugurated. Quite alarmingly, Anna Beth Keim and Assistant Professor Sulmaan Khan at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University points out that Turkey and China share concern with American supremacy, as a substantial portion of Turkish people regard the United Sates as an oppressive superpower.
However, Turkey’s position in Eurasia is complicated. Turkey’s membership in NATO is incompatible for full membership to SCO. Also, the Uyghur problem is a hurdle for Turkey to develop real partnership with China (“Can China and Turkey forge a new Silk Road?”; New Turkey; February 6, 2013). One Uyghur activist in Japan was disappointed to hear the missile deal as it would help the repressive regime of China. Like America and Europe, Turkey accommodates some leaders of the World Uyghur Congress. Pro-Chinese foreign policy just in quest of independence from the West will ruin Turkey’s Afro-Eurasia policy which is closely associated with Turkic kith and kin.
The Turkish-Chinese missile deal symbolizes China’s aggressive marketing of arms export. In 2012, China has overtaken Britain to become the 5th largest defense exporter. Coincidentally, South Korea makes a similar deal with China as President Park Guenhye is pursuing more Asia-oriented foreign policy than her predecessors, which distresses the United States and Japan. It is not just a “Great Leap Forward” of Chinese arms export. China drives wedge into America’s Atlantic and Pacific alliances, and it targets the weakest link of both groups.
Like Yukio Hatoyama in postwar Japan, Erdoğan is an exceptional prime minister in modern Turkish history. Both of them defy their national fundamental of “datsua nyuoh”, that is, to boost national power through joining the West and become first class civilized nations. But Hatoyama’s dream of the East Asian Community failed miserably, and so did Erdoğan’s good neighbor policy in the Middle East. Is Turkey making another mistake? That simply irritates NATO allies and their fellow Uyghurs. China may appear to be a powerful and reliable partner for Erdoğan, but it has no power projection capability in Turkey’s neighborhood. Only American and European allies can help Turkey in the Syrian crisis. Erdoğan must learn a lesson from Japan’s failure to ally with Hitler’s Germany in World War II. Nazi Germany had no power projection capability in the Pacific region, and Japan fought the war virtually alone.
Turkey’s primary partner is the West, and there is no alternative. AKP associates its political ideal with that of Christian Democrats in Europe, in order to placate the fear of Islamism among the EU public. Also, Turkey has no choice but abide by the Copenhagen criteria on human and minority rights, particularly with regard to the Kurdish problem. Finally, I would propose that Japan act with NATO allies to stop Turkey’s missile deal with China, because it is coincided with South Korea’s similar deal. The Abe administration advocates proactive pacifism and global-oriented diplomacy, and therefore, Japan, along with Western and Asian allies, should not allow China to target the weakest links.

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