Last month, we visited China following an invitation from the Chinese ambassador in Ankara. Organized by the Center of Iranian Studies (IRAM), the visiting committee was composed of representatives from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (ORSAM), the GENAR Research Institute, and the Turkish Radio and Television Association (TRT), along with the former head of the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) and a number of academics. Although we are all keeping track of the digital world, China astonished us with its highly developed technological strides.
Cinema has always been influential in shaping the international image of countries. Most people around the world "know" China through stereotypical movies as a chaotic Asian country with an arid climate, crowded cities and a dangerous level of air pollution. They imagine China as an underdeveloped country where political instability, social disorder and economic backwardness reign. Although our visit falsified all those stereotypes, we have witnessed the strength of cinema in shaping the international images of "far-away countries."
In Beijing, we conducted a meeting in the Institute of Social Sciences of Beijing, which included chairs for Middle Eastern, Iranian and Turkish studies. In the library of the institute, we even came across a Chinese report on the PKK. Although civil society is still an emerging field in China, the Chinese state has already caught hold of global standards in technology in this field. The technological infrastructure of the institute was, in this respect, as developed as the research centers in Europe and Turkey.
In my visit to Sudan 20 years ago, I realized that if an academic or a scholar would like to understand the political, cultural and economic character of a country, they must personally visit that country. After my visit to Sudan, I have been eager to visit other countries before I dare to develop an opinion about them.
Regarding the notorious trade war between the United States and China, it is crucial to reiterate that the trade deficit of the U.S. against China was $419 billion in 2018. Describing the deficit as a "robbery," U.S. President Donald Trump launched a trade war against China. In fact, the aforementioned deficit amounts to more than a half of the Turkish economy as a whole.
Although the American-Chinese trade war has been at the top of the international political and economic agenda, Chinese authorities and academics have avoided describing it as a "war." They claim that while China engaged in repressive competition with the U.S. during the Barack Obama administration, economic blockage has been imposed on the country during the Donald Trump administration. Without a doubt, they are anxious about the consequences of such a fierce economic struggle, while expressing their willingness to engage in fair competition. Underlining the magnitude of American-Chinese trade, which amounts to more than $800 billion, they conservatively claim that the bilateral relations between the U.S. and China should not be squandered.
During our visit to the Turkish Embassy in China, our ambassador underlined the success not only of the Chinese economy, but also of the Chinese government, which has spread economic welfare among Chinese cities.
In fact, we observed that China has made significant progress in the distribution of income and in the resolution of main infrastructural issues. The rise of per capita income in China, which is currently $10,000, is especially being felt in Beijing and Shanghai. While Beijing has been reconstructed with strict communist city planning based on disciplined growth, chaotic Shanghai has already turned into a global capitalist city with skyscrapers, shopping malls, buildings of multinational corporations and crowded streets.
Although China's Uighur issue is a heated and controversial topic, we sincerely expressed Turkey's position that mainly derives from historical roots, instead of being dependent on the regional policy of the U.S. Regarding this issue, I particularly underlined that the Turkish and the Chinese governments should work together to establish a framework of resolution on the basis of liberty and human rights. Otherwise, I claimed, the U.S. administration would abuse the Uighur issue for its own interests.
In conclusion, we witnessed not only a rapidly developing country with technologically advanced cities, but also a national psychology that puts itself at the center of the world. In one of my next columns, I plan to describe our visit to the technology development center of Huawei.