In keeping with the events surrounding the celebration of the 2012 China Culture Year in Turkey, scholars from China’s top universities and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences came to İstanbul to meet with their Turkish counterparts at a one-day conference on Tuesday. The conference, dubbed “Turkey-China Relations in the Developing World,” was co-organized by Marmara University, China’s Consulate General in İstanbul and the Dialogue Eurasia Platform (DA) and held at Marmara University’s Rector’s Office building in Sultanahmet. Scholars spoke about Turkey-China relations on the political, economic and cultural platform.
At the opening speech of this seminar, Marmara University Rector Zafer Gül said both China and Turkey had great intellectuals in history, such as Confucius and Mevlana Rumi, who he believed had many similar thoughts. Gül said he hoped that China and Turkey could further enhance cooperation in the academic field. He said he was in China last week and visited many Chinese universities in order to develop academic exchange programs and added that Marmara University intends to open a department of Chinese literature soon. Chinese Consul General in İstanbul Zhang Qingyang thanked Marmara University and the Dialogue Eurasia Platform for bringing together Chinese and Turkish academics. Harun Tokak, co-president of the Dialogue Eurasia Platform, said the conference was organized to increase understanding and strengthen relations between Turkish and Chinese intellectuals. He said there should be more Chinese schools in Turkey and that Turkey should also establish schools in China.
During one of the sessions, Chinese and Turkish scholars delivered speeches on the political systems and economic and cultural relations between the two countries. Professor Hu Wei, from Shanghai Jiaotong University, talked about China’s political development after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Dr. Abdurrahman Eren from Marmara University compared the Chinese and Turkish constitutions. Dr. Çağdaş Üngör from Marmara University reviewed the development of Turkey-China political relations since the two countries set up diplomatic ties in 1971. Üngör pointed out that there was an incorrect stereotype in Turkey that China is a very far-away country. “China is regarded as the Far East by many Turks, which creates a conceptual distance between the two countries,” she said.
According to Üngör, this misconception was caused by the influence of the Western definition of China -- Far East was a term used in European geopolitical discourses in the 19th century. Üngör suggested that Turkey should develop its own research and understanding of China, instead of relying on the Western perspective. Üngör’s view was shared by İbrahim Öztürk, a professor at Marmara University and a columnist for Today’s Zaman.
Öztürk said the Chinese and Turkish cultures are very close. “The problem is a lack of knowledge and academic research into each other’s cultures. Turkey understands China through the perspective of the West, and vice versa,” Öztürk pointed out. “In this sense, it is the responsibility of researchers from both countries to study each other’s cultures and introduce that knowledge to their people in order to close the cultural gap,” Öztürk suggested.
Wang Lincong, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, talked about Chinese scholars’ studies on Turkey. Wang said the Yunus Emre Foundation and Shanghai International Studies University are working on research projects in China about Turkey. Professor Yang Guiping from China’s Central University for Nationalities compared Islamic culture and Confucian culture and concluded that both were models of peaceful coexistence. Professor Wang Bo from Peking University introduced the ideas of Confucius and their influence on contemporary China. Journalist and writer Nevval Sevindi said it was time that Turkey and China renew the historical ties that were made during the Silk Road era.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman, professor Wang Lincong said China still lacks sufficient knowledge of Turkey, but he felt Chinese academics’ interest in studying Turkey is increasing. Wang himself read Today’s Zaman every day to follow news from Turkey. Professor Yang Guiping said throughout history there were religious exchanges between Chinese and Turkish Muslims. “In 1544, there was a 90-member delegation sent by the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Süleyman I to China; in 1845, Chinese Muslim scholars Ma Dexin and Ma Deli visited Turkey and were received by the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II,” she said. Yang added that many Turkish Muslim scholars’ books were translated into Chinese and available in China. Tokak said there were already various Turkish civil institutions and NGOs in China and that they serve as bridge of friendship between the two countries.
Representatives from the Chinese Consulate General in İstanbul, the Turkish Chinese Industrialists and Businessmen Association (TÜÇSİAD), China’s Southern Airline, Bank of China, the China Development Bank, students and researchers from various Turkish universities and research institutes also attended the seminar.