The Sino-centric Fault-lines of Turkish Geopolitics, by Oğuz DİLEK*

Turkey has recently started to situate its security into a new geographical expanse with borders
inching closer to the emerging China-centered world, and away from the European Peninsula.
China by forming voluminous trade links with energy-rich Middle Eastern and Caucasian
states has made the economic geography around Turkey’s borders appealing more than ever. Two
outcomes lying face-to-face transpired from this new neighborhood. First, Turkey now enjoys an
economic shelter that provides additional export outlets and foreign financial resources at a time
of great distress in the West. Second, now Turkey’s material wellbeing is contingent on countries,
such as Russia and Iran that squarely disagrees with some dimensions of Turkey’s identity, with
democracy being one of them.
Keywords: Turkey, Geopolitics, China, Economic Crisis, Energy Security, Eurasia, Middle East
Economic Roots of a Geopolitical ‘Re-Orientation’: Imagining Turkey in the Orient
At the turn of the 19th Century, some sea changes related to the rise of West disentangled those threads of fabric that previously held the Pax Ottomana together. With this happened, Turkey was no longer at center of anything but found itself caught at the intersection of the West and East. From this development did come along a time-honoring debate, cutting across a wide array of fields from Turkish literature to politics, on how to meaningfully read Turkey’s place in world. This debate, furthermore, has always been closely associated with domestic power struggles, competing visions of security and ideological stances.  Tuncer Kılınç, the  former General Secretary of the National Security Council, became first to vocally praise the idea of   cooperation with neighbors to the East as a substitute for NATO and the EU.  After a brief moment of pursuing a “catholic wedding” with the EU, Tayyip Erdoğan also seemed to be flirting with the idea of being a bridge between the West and East. Gaining traction in the AKP’s geopolitical thinking as well, this “re-orientation” went all the way to joining in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a dialogue partner last year, and semi-officially asking for full-membership a short while ago.
One way of explaining this changing mindscape is offered by the proponents of classical geopolitics.  They accentuate Turkey’s ambivalent ‘locale’ as what has always given Turkey a relative ease in moving into, and away from, easterly and westerly directions as it fits. To the extent that geographical location of a country determines its political identity, Turkey has indeed never been quite sure about its national identity
insomuch as the location of the country uncertainly falls somewhere in-between the West and the East. Critical geopolitics, going a long way to take constructivist arguments into this discussion, questions this order of business between ‘location’ and ‘identity.’ To the proponents of this approach, it is more accurate to go the other way around. It is the identity and self-perception of a nation that (geo-) graphes the surface of global
*  I owe a debt of gratitude to my dear friend Assist. Prof. Emre İşeri for his invaluable contributions to this work.


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