Academic Conference Strengthens Ties between China and Turkey

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Scholars from China’s top universities and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences came to Istanbul to meet with their Turkish counterparts for a symposium on May 22. The event was part of the 2012 Year of Chinese Culture in Turkey.

Turkey understands China through the perspective of the West, and vice versa. 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.

Dr. Cagdas Ozturk, Marmara University

The symposium, dubbed “Turkish-Chinese Relations in the Developing World,” was co-organized by Marmara University, China’s Consulate General in Istanbul, and the Dialogue Eurasia Platform (DAP). It was held at Marmara University’s Rector’s Office building in Sultanahmet. Scholars spoke about Turkish-Chinese relations in terms of politics, economics, and culture.

During the symposium’s opening speech, Marmara University Rector Zafer Gul said both China and Turkey had great intellectuals in history, such as Confucius and Mevlana Rumi, whom he believed had many similar thoughts. To build on this history, Gul said he hoped that China and Turkey would further enhance cooperation in the academic field. As part of that effort, Gul had been in China last week, visiting multiple Chinese universities in order to develop academic exchange programs. He added that Marmara University intends to open a department of Chinese literature in the near future.

Zhang Qingyang, the Chinese Consul General in Istanbul, then thanked Marmara University and DAP for bringing together Chinese and Turkish academics. Harun Tokak, co-president of DAP, said the symposium had been 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. Cagdas Ungor from Marmara University reviewed the development of Turkish-Chinese political relations since the two countries set up diplomatic ties in 1971.

Ungor pointed out that there was an incorrect stereotype in Turkey about China’s being a 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 Ungor, this misconception was caused by the influence of the Western definition of China: The ‘Far East’ was a term used in European geopolitical discourses in the 19th century. Ungor suggested that Turkey should develop its own research and understanding of China instead of relying on Western perspectives.

Ungor’s view was shared by Ibrahim Ozturk, a professor at Marmara University and a columnist for Today’s Zaman. Ozturk said that the Chinese and Turkish cultures were 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,” Ozturk 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.”

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 were 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 historical ties that were made during the Silk Road era.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Professor Wang Lincong said China still lacks sufficient knowledge about Turkey, but he felt Chinese academics’ interest in studying Turkey was increasing. Wang himself reads Today’s Zaman every day to follow news from Turkey.

Professor Yang Guiping said that throughout history there have been religious exchanges between Chinese and Turkish Muslims. “In 1544, there was a 90-member delegation sent by the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Suleyman I to China; in 1845, Chinese Muslim scholars Ma Dexin and Ma Deli visited Turkey and were received by the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II,” she said. Yang added that many Turkish Muslim scholars’ books had been translated into Chinese and were available in China.

Tokak added there were already various Turkish civil institutions and NGOs in China and that they served as bridges of friendship between the two countries.

The symposium’s attendees included representatives from the Chinese Consulate General in Istanbul, the Turkish Chinese Industrialists and Businessmen Association (TUCSIAD), China Southern Airlines, the Bank of China, the China Development Bank, and students and researchers from various Turkish universities and research institutes.

  • Today’s Zaman / 23 May 2012 / Zhuying Shi, Istanbul

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