China’s Xinjiang propaganda and united front work in Turkey: Actors and content

Paper published in Monde chinois — Nouvelle Asie.

This paper was first published in a special double issue of Monde chinois – Nouvelle Asie (Les mécanismes de la répression en région ouïghoure, N° 62; Transformation et reconstruction des identités, N° 63), edited by Vanessa Frangville and Jean-Yves Heurtebise. It is reproduced with permission, with minor edits. This article draws on previous research first presented at the workshop “Mapping China’s footprint in the world II”, discussed in the Sinopsis paper “China’s Xinjiang work in Turkey” (11 Aug. 2019) and updated in “China’s Tactics for Targeting the Uyghur Diaspora in Turkey” (China Brief, 1 Nov. 2019). A summary of the present paper appeared as a two-article series in China Brief (“The Xinjiang Crisis and Sino-Turkish Relations During the Pandemic”, 26 Feb.; “China’s Xinjiang Propaganda and United Front Work in Turkey”, 15 Mar. 2021).


Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) comprehensively recast its governance in Xinjiang in 2016, its policies have impacted virtually all aspects of reality for Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other ethnic communities in the region. The Xinjiang crisis has become a major point of friction between part of the international community and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), obliging the CCP to devote considerable efforts to its containment. This article explores the actors and content of the propaganda and united front work the CCP carries out in Turkey to shape the public debate and affairs relating to Xinjiang. The research mostly investigates recent developments in Sino-Turkish ties, the communication of the PRC’s central actors with Turkish audiences, the CCP’s efforts to build ties with local political actors and co-opt their public discourse and media networks, the mechanisms of communication effected by official press tours of Turkish journalists to Xinjiang, and the CCP’s propaganda and united front work targeting Uyghurs living in Turkey, particularly businessmen and students. The discussion also situates the examined CCP actors within the respective systems of governance. Finally, the article presents several instances of the CCP’s attempts to localize its propaganda and united front work by adopting the topic of Islam. The research draws on open textual sources and author’s interviews with Uyghur informants in Istanbul and Ankara in May, June, and August 2019.


The extreme policies implemented by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (also known as East Turkestan) since Chen Quanguo (陈全国) became the regional party secretary in August 2016, explored in this special issue, have fundamentally altered the party’s governance in the region and gravely impacted even the most private spheres of life for Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and the region’s other non-Han ethnic groups. The Xinjiang developments are symptomatic of the CCP’s comprehensive consolidation of power under Xi Jinping (习近平) and its assertive projection of power abroad since 2012. The critical situation in Xinjiang has become one of the points of friction between part of the international community and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The CCP has thus been forced to devote considerable efforts to containing the damage its radical Xinjiang policy inflicts on its national image and foreign policy.

This article presents a case study of the CCP’s Xinjiang work (涉疆工作), i.e., its efforts to inform foreign public debate and affairs relating to Xinjiang to serve its broader political interests. It focuses first on propaganda and thought work (宣传思想工作), i.e., practices designed to shape people’s emotions, thinking, and political behavior.2 Subsequently, it deals with united front work (统一战线工作), i.e., influence operations rallying other actors to achieve the CCP’s political goals.3 The two approaches are among the techniques robustly applied by the Xi leadership to enforce domestic order and shape the international environment, particularly in managing diaspora issues and ethnic and religious affairs involving Xinjiang.4 Turkey is suitable for the case study because it is home to a sizeable and politically active Uyghur diaspora, which necessitates complex CCP Xinjiang work. The research presented here complements findings on the CCP’s propaganda and united front work targeting other audiences in the Middle East, a region of fundamental geostrategic significance for the CCP.5 It also contributes to the discussion of the prominence of the Xinjiang issue in the CCP’s domestic and foreign policy.6

The research addresses the Xinjiang propaganda and united front work performed by a variety of CCP actors, such as diplomatic missions in Turkey, united front organizations, and media actors. It also situates the examined institutions within the political structure of the contemporary Chinese party‑state—namely, within the respective systems (系统), groupings of functionally related bureaucracies responsible for a specific policy sphere.7 While this article focuses on the propaganda (宣传) and united front (统一战线), by providing examples of links to foreign affairs (外事) and military (军事) systems it demonstrates that the CCP conceives of its Xinjiang work in Turkey as a multiagency task. The CCP’s liaison activities targeting Turkey’s political and media actors are also explored.

The research draws on open textual sources and the author’s interviews with Uyghur informants in Istanbul and Ankara in May, June, and August 2019. It develops the author’s preliminary findings on the CCP’s Xinjiang propaganda and united front work published in a working paper presented at the workshop Mapping China’s Footprint in the World II, organized by Project Sinopsis and the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences.8 The conclusions regarding the CCP’s methods against the Uyghur diaspora in Turkey were further developed in an article published by the Jamestown Foundation in November 2019.9

The Xinjiang problem in Sino-Turkish relations

Several issues persist in Sino-Turkish relations. Turkey fought alongside US troops in the Korean War (1950–1953) against China’s intervening People’s Liberation Army, and the two countries established diplomatic ties only in 1971. Turkey is a member of NATO and has for decades turned to liberal democracies as a political and social model. Both Turkish and Chinese leaders view ethnic issues as a foremost security concern but, while Turkey has recognized the so‑called East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a terrorist organization, China has not done so in the case of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, although both are regarded as a grave threat to the political stability of the respective regimes. Furthermore, PRC entities were disqualified from Turkey’s tenders for the Sinop nuclear power plant in 2013 and for an air defense system in 2015.10

Since the CCP’s annexation of Xinjiang in 1949, Turkey has become a second homeland for a Uyghur diaspora likely numbering over 35,000.11 Uyghurs began arriving in greater numbers with the gradual tightening up in Xinjiang from the beginning of the new millennium and particularly following the Xinjiang government’s crackdown after the 2009 Urumchi unrest. The flow from Xinjiang lasted until about early 2017, when travel was made practically impossible by Xinjiang authorities. In Turkey, Uyghurs enjoy relative local freedom of speech, publication, assembly, and political activism. Because of the restrictions imposed by the CCP on travel, reporting, and research in Xinjiang, the diaspora in Turkey has also become a vital source of information on developments inside Xinjiang and a site of preservation of Uyghur identity and self-expression. Such initiatives void the CCP’s representation of the situation in Xinjiang, damaging herewith the PRC’s national image and foreign interests.

Turkey has also been a secondary destination for Uyghurs. Thousands are estimated to have fled there from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates after the Egyptian authorities cooperated with PRC security forces to deport Uyghurs in July 2017.12 Turkey also harbors Uyghur radicals, including some previously aligned with militant groups participating in the civil war in Syria since 2013, some of which were supported by Turkey. Having often travelled to the Syrian battlefield via Turkey since 2013, the remnants of the radicalized Uyghur community in Syria have trickled back to the country in recent years following the defeat of their movement in Syria.13

Yet for decades it has been Turkey’s (albeit modest and inconsistent) support of Uyghurs and other Xinjiang Turkic nationalities that has been considered the gravest liability for ties with China.14 Since the 1980s, Turkey has been mildly supportive of Uyghur political activism. In 2009, Turkey’s then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the word “genocide” when referring to the Chinese government’s violent suppression of unrest in Urumchi.15 In 2015, Turkish diplomats in southeast Asian countries were reported to have issued travel documents to Uyghurs fleeing Xinjiang via the Yunnan route.16

In 2019, following public outrage after reports of the death of a renowned Uyghur musician and poet, Abduréhim Héyit, in detention in Xinjiang, Turkey’s foreign ministry strongly denounced the CCP’s Xinjiang policy. Another condemnation soon followed from the spokesperson of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) Ömer Çelik and from foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UN).17 China’s response included the closure of its consulate in Izmir, a trade and logistics hub on the Aegean coastline.18 Turkey subsequently did not attend the second forum of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the main foreign policy tool of the Xi leadership, in Beijing in late April 2019, although it had taken part in the first summit in May 2017.19

On September 29, 2020 another escalation followed after Çelik again criticized the PRC’s Xinjiang policy—namely, arbitrary interrogations, arrests, restrictions on religious freedoms, compulsory Chinese education, the detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs in reeducation camps, and the forced cohabitation of Uyghur families with Han Chinese. While acknowledging China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right to fight terrorism, he framed China’s treatment of “Uyghur Turks” as a violation of human rights and freedom of religious belief.20

However, besides the occasional critical proclamation Turkey has so far done little to address the Xinjiang problem in foreign affairs. Weeks after the February 2019 clash with China, Turkey failed to raise the issue at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Abu Dhabi in March 2019, which, on the contrary, jointly praised the PRC for policies towards Muslim citizens.21 Erdoğan, in his presidential capacity, has abstained from criticizing China on Xinjiang, making it clear on his visit to Beijing in July 2019, for instance, that he was willing to refrain from criticizing China for the sake of future cooperation.22 Neither was the Xinjiang crisis addressed by the 2019 annual report of Turkey’s embassy in Beijing.23 And although Turkey reiterated the AKP’s domestic criticism at the UN session on October 6, 2020,24 it did not join a bloc of thirty-nine other countries in lambasting the PRC’s Xinjiang policy.25 Erdoğan’s passivity on the mass atrocities perpetrated by the CCP against Xinjiang Muslims, moreover, contrasts with his vocal opposition to Western leaders in incidents involving Islam. On October 26, Erdoğan called for a boycott of French goods in retaliation for the French president Emmanuel Macron’s denunciation of Islamic extremism following the brutal murder of a French teacher by a Chechen man after showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in class.26 Erdoğan’s authoritarian practices have also resulted in a widening rift between Turkey and European powers.

In contrast, Sino-Turkish ties have improved over the past decade, in spite of the Xinjiang problem. The two countries concluded a strategic partnership in the year following the 2009 Urumchi clampdown, which Erdoğan had called genocide.27 Turkey’s “Eurasian” foreign policy turn accelerated after the failed coup of July 15, 2016, which, along with the 2013 Gezi demonstrations, is perceived by the Turkish conservative establishment as a Western-supported conspiracy of the Gülen movement. 28 After the coup attempt, the possibility of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was debated by Turkish politicians and experts. The so-called “pivot to Asia” also materialized in Erdoğan’s Asia Anew diplomatic initiative launched in 2019.29

Meanwhile, the economic, financial, and technological leverage Beijing has built over Ankara in recent years has led some to regard Turkey as a PRC “client state.”30 Beijing eyes Turkey as a geopolitically important piece of its geostrategic efforts. The BRI could be expanded by Turkey’s proposed Middle Corridor project linking Turkey with the Caucasus and Central Asia. Its core segment, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, was launched in 2017. Abdulkadir Emin Önen’s appointment as Turkey’s ambassador to China in October 2017 was interpreted as reflecting Erdoğan’s desire to establish a direct communication channel with Beijing.31 Önen had previously been chairman of the Turkey-China Friendship Group, which has existed in Turkey’s parliament since 1990.32

The CCP’s Xinjiang interests abroad

Yet, despite Sino-Turkish cooperation, the Xinjiang issue continues to loom large in China’s dealings with Turkey. Whereas for Turkey the ties with China are important for economic reasons, the PRC perceives Turkey primarily from a geostrategic perspective. The political regime stability of the PRC, with particular regard to the size of Turkey’s Uyghur diaspora and its activities, is another fundamental agenda of the CPC. As in other contexts, in its dealings with Turkey the CCP packages its efforts to reshape the existing international order as prevention of “unilateralism, protectionism, and power politics” (单边主义, 保护主义, 强权政治). Referring to the Xinjiang crisis and also playing on Turkey’s Kurdish problem, Beijing declares its willingness to extend (and presumably also to receive) the “three resolute supports” (三个坚定支持), i.e., backing in “safeguarding state security and legitimate rights and interests” (维护国家安全和正当合法权益), “following a development path suitable for the country’s national conditions” (走符合本国国情的发展道路), and “deepening China-Turkey strategic cooperation” (深化中土战略合作). Beijing also seeks to improve mutual political trust, build the BRI, and secure Turkey’s participation in the “common struggle against all forms of terrorism” (一切形式的恐怖主义).33 Various PRC actors have argued that China could benefit from greater involvement of Xinjiang’s Muslims and their transnational ties and potential in its diplomacy toward Central Asia and the Middle East, particularly since it considers Xinjiang the BRI’s “core region” (核心区).34 However, this potential is obstructed by the fact that the CCP views Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims inside and outside the PRC’s borders mostly as a security threat.35 The activities of the Uyghur diaspora and East Turkestani exile organizations are considered by the CCP a foremost danger to the regime’s political stability. It refers to them and the pro-democracy, Taiwan, Tibet, and Falungong activists as “five poisons” (五毒). Beijing therefore considers management of ethnic communities abroad a crucial segment of “overseas Chinese affairs” (侨务).36 In the words of a Xinjiang united front work official, overseas Xinjiang students and compatriots must function as “an important uniting force” (重要团结力量) of the overseas community.37

Since the escalation of the Xinjiang crisis in recent years, the CCP has worked systematically to disrupt the activities of the Uyghur global diaspora. It has resorted to the tactics of the “three warfares” (三种战法), the CCP’s concept of political influence work, consisting of “public opinion warfare” (舆论战), “psychological warfare” (心理战), and “legal warfare” (法律战).38 As in other countries, in Turkey Uyghur informants have related how the PRC’s security forces have subjected them to extensive monitoring, harassment, and psychological pressure, to pressures to return home, supply specific information, or spy on a permanent basis, to disinformation and smear campaigns, and to blackmail by holding hostage, coercing, or physically abusing family members in Xinjiang. Uyghurs have been detained and harassed by Turkish authorities, in some cases apparently with China’s involvement.39 At the first BRI forum in May 2017, the two countries concluded an extradition treaty, which stipulates that individuals can be deported even if their behavior is considered illegal in only one of the two countries.40 On November 2, 2020, a Uyghur living in Istanbul, who had spoken multiple times to the media asserting he had been coerced by PRC security organs to spy on the Uyghur diaspora, was shot and critically wounded days before a planned interview with the BBC.41

China’s pressures combine inauspiciously with the difficult situation in which many Uyghurs in Turkey find themselves. The Uyghur diaspora’s problems with residential status, social security, healthcare, employment, education, and many other things are caused primarily by the default predicament of political exiles cut off from loved ones left behind in an oppressive environment.42 However, they are also caused by the neglect of the situation by the Turkish authorities, which have granted a limited number of asylum claims and residence permits over the past decade and have done little overall to provide for the needs of the country’s troubled Uyghur community.

Xinjiang work by PRC central actors

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the PRC to reframe its interests relating to Xinjiang, described as the desire for “mutual understanding and support in each other’s core interests and major key issues” (在涉及彼此核心利益和重大关切问题上相互理解, 相互支持), within the narrative of the common struggle of China and the world community against the pandemic.43 The CCP grasped the health crisis as an opportunity to fortify its political allegiances with Turkish actors who could potentially be useful for the advance of its Xinjiang interests.

As was the case in other countries, the PRC’s pandemic diplomacy in Turkey was implemented by the local branch of the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification (CCPPNR, 中国和平统一促进会), which is directed by the CCP Central Committee’s United Front Work Department and maintains branches all over the world. It is mainly tasked with consolidating the political loyalty of overseas Chinese communities and advancing the CCP’s policy on territorial issues.44 The CCPPNR’s mission, in other words, is suited to addressing precisely such problems as the existence of a large and politically active Uyghur diaspora. The council’s Turkey chapter, China Peaceful Unification Association (土耳其中国和平统一促进会, Çin’in Barışçıl Birleşmesi Derneği), for instance, denounced the promulgation of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act by the US legislature in December 2019, whitewashing the network of “professional vocational education training centers” (职业技能教育培训中心).45 The branch was also instrumental in the promotion of the CCP’s Hong Kong and Taiwan policy.46

During the Covid-19 crisis, the CCPPNR branch was active in Istanbul, an economic and logistical hub important for the BRI, as well as the locale where most of Turkey’s Uyghurs arrive and live. On March 23, 2020, the association donated 10,000 face masks to Istanbul’s Maltepe district. Its mayor, Ali Kılıç, who hails from Turkey’s main opposition group, the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP), then lauded China’s anti-epidemic struggle and its solidarity with Turkish people.47 Following the donation of 10,000 masks to Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district on May 18, 2020, the association’s Chinese website reported the two receiving Turkish officials’ gratitude for China’s “unreserved help,” as well as their “fervent love of China” and desire for Turkish people to “better understand the great country China.”48 The Beşiktaş district assembly is also dominated by the CHP.49

On July 29, 2020, Turkey’s CCPPNR donated 50,000 masks to the Istanbul municipal government headed by Ekrem İmamoğlu, a candidate of the opposition CHP and the Good Party (İyi Parti), which has criticized China’s Xinjiang policies on several occasions.50 China has been cultivating ties with İmamoğlu since his ascent to power. Consul general Cui Wei (崔巍) paid a congratulatory visit to İmamoğlu shortly after he assumed office in April 2019.51 In October 2019, the Istanbul city government’s installation of Chinese-language versions of public transportation stop names on the main tourist routes sparked a negative public reaction, particularly among the city’s Uyghur population.52 In September 2020, Istanbul’s airport was declared by China the world’s first “China-friendly airport” (中国友好机场) for enabling Chinese tourists to receive service in Chinese, designated check-in counters and boarding gates, payments with the Chinese WeChat application in duty free shops, and other privileges.53 İmamoğlu and Istanbul provincial governor Ali Yerlikaya sent congratulatory notes to the PRC consulate on the occasion of China’s national day on October 1, 2020.54

The CCP’s high level of concern with the security threat the Xinjiang crisis causes to the regime abroad is also manifest in Beijing’s new ambassadorial appointment to Ankara. On August 31, 2020, after 20 months in his Ankara posting, China’s ambassador to Turkey Deng Li (邓励) was appointed to the position of assistant foreign minister (外交部部长助理) tasked with the western Asia and Africa portfolio.55 On 23 September, 2020, Deng Li met with Turkey’s ambassador Önen in Beijing and declared that China was willing to elevate “strategic cooperation” (战略合作) to a “new level” (新台阶).56

China’s new envoy to Turkey Liu Shaobin (刘少宾) was appointed on October 30, 2020.57 Liu’s expertise lies at the nexus of security and diplomacy. He was appointed to the Ankara mission from the position of head (司长) of the foreign ministry’s External Security Affairs Department (涉外安全事务司), which manages the state security agenda in foreign affairs and security-related work of the PRC diplomatic missions abroad.58 In September 2020, Liu presided over the first meeting of the counter-extremism sub-group of the BRICS counterterrorism working group. The sub-group is led by the PRC, specifically by its external security department. At the meeting, China’s delegation advocated its “counterterrorism and de-extremification policies and position” (反恐和去极端化政策主张) and their contribution to international efforts.59

In late August 2020, Turkey’s ambassador Önen was received by the ministry’s external security commissioner (涉外安全事务专员), Cheng Guoping (程国平), who declared China’s interest in increasing security cooperation with Turkey.60 Cheng’s record of tackling the CCP’s Xinjiang problem abroad is substantial. He served as the PRC’s ambassador to Kazakhstan in 2008–2010 and as a deputy foreign minister responsible for external security in 2011–2015. In 2016, he was appointed China’s first external “state counter-terrorism and security commissioner” (国家反恐安全专员), whose task was to coordinate with foreign governments in fighting “cyberterrorism” (网路恐怖主义) or the “ETIM” (东伊动).61 According to the PRC, the ETIM is a Uyghur foreign-based terrorist organization responsible for numerous attacks inside and outside China. While the group’s existence is, in fact, disputed, it has been established that since 2001 the PRC has used its claim to discredit disparate exile Uyghur organizations and to win international approval for its domestic crackdown on Uyghurs.62

Cheng Guoping is simultaneously the deputy chair of the China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC, 中国国际友好联络会).63 This organization is a front of the Political Work Department Liaison Bureau (政治工作部联络局) of the People’s Liberation Army. Formerly known as the Liaison Department of the General Political Department (总参谋政治部联络部), this unit is responsible for intelligence and political warfare. Its functions, moreover, overlap with those of other similarly tasked institutions of the CCP’s united front, propaganda, and state security (国安) systems.64 It is one of the decision-making organs of the CCP’s external propaganda system.65

On November 12, 2020, which is the anniversary of the founding of the two East Turkestan Republics in 1933 and 1944, Cheng Guoping conferred online with Afghanistan’s state security commission deputy advisor Fahim within a “Sino-Afghan trans-departmental and trans-regional security cooperation mechanism” (中阿跨部门跨地区安全合作机制). The two sides agreed to collaborate on suppressing the ETIM.66 The literal mention of the ETIM at the meeting was arguably a response to the US State Department’s removal of the ETIM from its list of terrorist organizations on November 5, 2020,67 which China promptly condemned.68 At the meeting with Fahim, Cheng Guoping said that the Sino-Afghan “well-being and local cooperation” (民生地方合作) is to be linked to the Xinjiang agenda. On November 18, 2020, Cheng again met with Turkey’s ambassador Önen.69

Actors and content of CCP propaganda

The case of Turkey is an example of the CCP’s dissemination of the content formulated by its external propaganda system through the PRC’s foreign affairs institutions.70 In September 2020, the PRC’s embassy in Ankara reacted on its Turkish website to the criticisms of its Xinjiang policy by the AKP’s spokesperson at home and by Turkey’s delegation at the UN. China’s statements for Turkish audiences reiterated the main lines of the CCP’s propaganda on Xinjiang, arguing that the issue is not a matter of human rights, ethnicity, or religion, but a matter of combating violence, separatism, extremism, and terrorism. Citizens of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, including Uyghurs, allegedly live and work happily, enjoying peace and stability while their human rights are promoted and protected, including their religious freedom, culture, and language. While in 1990–2016 the region allegedly saw thousands of violent incidents, due to measures taken to combat terrorism and extremism in accordance with the law, according to the authorities the security situation in the region has greatly improved and no violent incident has occurred for more than three years.71 Interestingly, this time no retaliatory measures were taken by Beijing. Neither its foreign ministry nor the Istanbul consulate verbally reacted and the Ankara embassy did not hold a press conference on Xinjiang for the Turkish media as they had when relations became strained in the wake of Turkey’s criticism in February 2019.72

Through the Ankara embassy, nonetheless, the CCP devotes systematic attention to the most explosive aspects of the Xinjiang problem. Throughout the summer of 2020, the embassy’s website posted Turkish versions of numerous official Chinese statements on mainly Xinjiang-related issues by the central or regional authorities, such as the Turkish version73 of China’s reaction74 to the BBC’s report75 on the detention of Uyghur model Merdan Ghappar, transcripts of China’s press conferences76 responding to Adrian Zenz’s research on forced birth prevention measures,77 the US imposition of sanctions against the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps78 and high-ranking Xinjiang officials,79 or the US adoption of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act.80 Around the 2020 anniversary of the July 5, 2009 bloodshed in Urumchi, the embassy posted a statement and a 22-item “explainer” of the most contentious aspects of the Xinjiang problem.81 Not all of the PRC’s official releases on Xinjiang published on the embassy’s Turkish site are, however, reposted by the Istanbul consulate’s Turkish website, which results in a somewhat more conciliatory tone on the part of the official PRC Turkish-language platform in the location where the majority of the Uyghur diaspora is concentrated.

Both PRC missions in Turkey also maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts. On July 5, 2020, the Ankara embassy posted on its Facebook profile the Turkish-language version of an hour-long “documentary,” Xinjiang’s Counterterrorism (新疆反恐).82 The movie was made by the state-owned Tianshan Film Studio (天山电影制片厂, Uygh. Tengritagh Kino Studiyisi), whose predecessor was founded in 1959, and the studio has since produced multiple films containing Xinjiang propaganda.83 The studio is managed by the Xinjiang Radio and Television Administration (新疆广播电视局), which is directed by the regional propaganda department.

The CCP’s Xinjiang propaganda also involves other actors within the propaganda system. China Radio International (CRI), a part of the China Media Group (中央广播电视总台) directed by the CCP Central Committee’s propaganda department, operates a Turkish-language service. Founded in 1957, the service nowadays maintains a Turkish-language portal producing TV, FM, video, and text coverage, as well as a YouTube channel. Although seemingly less political in content, it nevertheless broadcasts the main political narratives, e.g., Beijing’s labor transfers of Uyghurs from Xinjiang to China proper84 and the overall employment situation of Xinjiang’s minorities,85 evaluated in a report by the Xinjiang Development Research Center of the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.86

CRI also used to run a YouTube channel, Beijing Time (Beijing Saati), from January 2017 to July 2018.87 Xinjiang’s official provincial website Tianshan Online, which is produced by the region’s main propaganda platform, the Xinjiang Daily, also had a Turkish version until early December 2018.88 The Turkish version of the official portal was operated until December 2019 by the State Council Information Office (SCIO), one of the CCP’s main external propaganda organs.89 The Turkish version of the China’s Xinjiang (中国新疆)90 website, which is produced by the China International Communication Center (五洲传播中心) established by the SCIO, is still up-to-date. The center is responsible for a variety of external propaganda products and activities and also carries out the CCP’s Xinjiang propaganda in Central Asia.91

It is worth noting that the CCP’s Xinjiang propaganda and united front work in Turkey is sometimes localized by incorporating the topic of Islam. This was, for instance, the case for the CCPPNR’s above-mentioned donation of protective masks to Imamoğlu’s office in July 2020. The donation was specifically made and advertised on the eve of the Feast of Sacrifice (Kurban Bayramı), a major Islamic festival. On May 22, 2020, the PRC’s Istanbul consul Cui Wei similarly congratulated “representatives of Xinjiang compatriots abroad” (新疆籍侨胞代表), and, “through them, to compatriots within the consular district” (通过他们向领区所有侨胞), at the end of Ramadan, which was presented as a “traditional Muslim festival” (穆斯林传统佳节).92 According to informants, during Ramadan in May 2019, the PRC embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul hosted communal fast-breaking meals (Uygh. iftar) for Uyghur guests and friendly Turkish figures.93 At the Nowruz (Uygh. Noruz)94 reception held on March 22, 2018, the PRC’s then ambassador to Turkey, Yu Hongyang (郁红阳), appealed to Xinjiang students and compatriots in Turkey to “embrace each other as tightly as pomegranate seeds” (像石榴籽一样紧紧抱在一起) as the nationalities forming the Chinese nation are “inseparable with common bloodline” (割裂不断的, 血脉相通).95

The fact that such statements are not reported in Turkish on PRC outlets suggests that such united front activities are promoted primarily in order to target PRC constituencies both inside and outside China, creating a so-called propaganda feedback loop.96 However, in Xinjiang activities involving religion, such as celebrating the end of Ramadan, communal fast-breaking meals, or Nowruz festivities, fall under the definition of extremist behavior and constitute grounds for political reeducation or a prison sentence.97

The Patriotic Party network

The CCP’s closest ally in Turkey is the Patriotic Party (VP; Vatan Partisi), which, despite holding no mandate in Turkey’s parliament, is an efficient actor in the CCP’s propaganda and united front work in Turkey. Its chairman Doğu Perinçek (b. 1942) is a self-professed Maoist and Kemalist, whom the CCP has considered a political ally since the 1970s.98 After being swept up in Erdoğan’s orchestrated crackdown on the so-called Ergenekon group, Perinçek was tried and sentenced in 2008. However, after Erdoğan ended up in need of new allies to boost his position, having been shaken by the Gezi Park protests and entanglement in corruption scandals in late 2013, Perinçek was released from prison in 2014.99

Since his comeback, he has been regarded as an influential political actor, mainly due to his political connections in Russia, China, and Iran, as well as his following among Turkey’s military officers. He is also close to Russia’s nationalist anti-liberal politician Alexander Dugin. Although his views are hardly compatible with the AKP’s stance on religion, Perinçek shares the party’s nationalism and reservations about liberal democracy and the Western-led international order. Perinçek is among Turkey’s leading advocates of exiting NATO and joining the SCO. Perinçek and Erdoğan also differ on Turkey’s position toward the Assad regime, which Perinçek argues Turkey should support. The two nevertheless agree on the Kurdish question: Perinçek abandoned his former allies from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party after his release from prison in 2014.100

In fact, Perinçek turned denunciations of “Kurdish separatism” into a core tenet of his and his party’s ideology. The ostentatious anti-terrorist and anti-separatist profile resonates in Turkey’s public debate and ideologically binds Perinçek and the VP’s views with the CCP’s position on “East Turkestani separatism and terrorism.” Anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, anti-liberalism, nationalism, calls for a re-evaluation of the current international relations system and the heralding of an “Asian Age” in world history in which a rising Asian power is predestined to be a leading actor are other overlapping motives in the ideology and propaganda of the VP and the CCP.101

The VP frequently networks with the CCP Central Committee’s International Liaison Department (中共中央对外联络部; ILD), a vital organ of the CCP’s foreign affairs system targeting political parties abroad.102 After the escalation of the Xinjiang problem in Sino-Turkish relations in early February 2019, Perinçek met with the ILD’s deputy director Li Jun (李军) in Beijing on February 22, 2019. His positive appraisal of the CCP’s ethnic and social policies and denunciation of “separatism” were publicized both in the CCP’s Chinese and the VP’s Turkish media.103

Perinçek then traveled to Urumchi where he attended a meeting titled “China’s Ethnic Policy and Ethnic Unity—Practice in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” (中国的民族政策和民族团结—新疆维吾尔自治区的实践). The high-profile event was organized by the ILD and Xinjiang party committee, whose heads Song Tao (宋涛) and Chen Quanguo both attended along with over 200 delegates of some 50 political parties from almost 30 countries.104 Perinçek was granted the privilege of giving a speech.105 During the trip, Perinçek and his wife Şule also visited Urumchi’s mosque to witness the alleged “religious freedom” in Xinjiang. After the visit, Perinçek praised the CCP’s policies and belittled concerns about the Xinjiang crisis in the Turkish media. Perinçek contributes similar views to the CCP’s Chinese and English-language outlets. 106

Perinçek is capable of imbuing his networking events with rich propagandistic content. In May 24–29, 2019, the VP organized three Turko-Chinese business summits on “Cooperation for a Leap Forward in Production” in Izmir, Istanbul, and Ankara. The meetings were attended by the PRC’s highest diplomatic officials. In the capital, ambassador Deng Li promoted the potential for cooperation between the two “natural partners” within the BRI. Perinçek declared that the “Atlantic Age” is at its end and that humanity is entering an “Asian Age,” Turkey and China being among its pioneers. According to Perinçek, the revolutionary processes in Turkey and China are closely intertwined, as evidenced by the 1908 “Freedom Revolution” in the Ottoman Empire followed by Sun Yat-sen’s “Democratic Revolution” in China three years later, by China’s 1919 May Fourth movement followed by Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s reaching Samsun fifteen days later, or by Atatürk’s and Mao Zedong’s revolutions in the 1920s, which changed the destiny of Asia and the world. Both countries are allegedly among the few which rest upon the dual legacy of “living with one’s head high” and of “making nationalities coexist while protecting the safety of trade routes.”107 Perinçek also argued that Turkey and China share an interest in fighting East Turkestani and Kurdish separatist and terrorist organizations supported by the US.108

The Ankara conference was judged to have been a success because it gathered the heavyweights of Turkey’s politically conservative pro-government business community and signaled their willingness to rally around Turkey’s potential pivot to China.109 “A former Marxist-turned-entrepreneur and a close associate of Erdoğan,”110 Ethem Sancak, referring to Turkish pop music megastar Sezen Aksu’s song “I Have Become Your Prisoner” (Ben Sende Tutuklu Kaldım), declared that Turkey and China are “bound to each other” and that the responsibility for building the new international system humanity needs lays on the shoulders of the Turks and the Chinese. Murat Ülker, whose company did significant business in Xinjiang in the past, when Uyghur customers often bought its products mainly due to their Turkish provenience despite their comparatively high prices,111 said that “as the world is becoming divided into two parts, in favor and against China, we are all on China’s side” and “must definitely benefit from the air, land, and sea routes along the Silk Road.” The meeting was also attended by Bekir Okan,112 whose holding funds the private Okan University in Tuzla, Istanbul, which hosts one of the PRC’s Confucius Institutes in Turkey.113 The conference was also covered by the Turkish edition of the Russian disinformation outlet Sputnik,114 which often features articles on Xinjiang supporting the CCP’s position, such as pieces by Erkin Öncan,115 who is also a regular contributor on Xinjiang to Global Times.116

The media field

For the CCP, cooperation with the VP is also valuable for its connections to the Turkish media milieu and public debate. The VP’s press organ Aydınlık (Enlightenment), a daily whose forerunner was the Ottoman Empire’s first socialist newspaper, published since 1921, transmits the ideology of Perinçek and other like-minded politicians. Aydınlık devotes systematic attention to the Xinjiang issue. After Turkish politicians reproached the PRC on Xinjiang in early October 2020, the political leaders of the Uyghur diaspora met with Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister and chairman of the AKP between August 2014 and May 2019. Davutoğlu parted political ways with the AKP and established his own Future Party (Gelecek Partisi) in December 2019. His October 2020 meeting with leading Uyghur exiles was promptly denounced by Aydınlık as an act of support for “Uyghur provocateurs” and “separatists.”117 Aydınlık also publishes other pro-PRC and pro-Russian content, such as articles by Alexander Dugin. One of them argues that one of the main features of “multipolarism” in international affairs is the uniqueness of Chinese, Russian, Turkish, Indian, and Islamic cultures, which are all fundamentally different from the West.118

Aydınlık and the VP frequently cooperate with CCP media actors. In December 2019, the Aydınlık journalists joined media workers from Russia, Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, and five other countries to forge partnerships with Beijing media organizations for cooperation involving common media projects, sharing media technologies, or building platforms for content sharing, and also to advance the “connectivity of people’s hearts” (民心相通) and form a “wide circle of friendly media to build the community of human destiny” (在构建人类命运共同体中扩大媒体朋友圈). The initiative was organized by several institutions of the CCP propaganda system—namely, the Beijing municipal government’s information office (政府新闻办公室), the All-China Journalists Association (中华全国新闻工作者协会), the China Public Diplomacy Association (中国公共外交协会), and the Beijing Media Network (北京广播电视台).119 The China Public Diplomacy Association had previously briefed a group of Turkish media and think tank representatives on ethnic and religious policy, the BRI, and related issues during their tour of China in May 2018. The tour also included a visit to the CRI.120 Media issues, along with “mutual core interests” (彼此核心利益) and the “common struggle against terrorism” (teröre karşı ortak mücadele) were among the topics covered by an online seminar of the VP’s cadres and youth delegates with the ILD on September 23–24, 2020.121

The CCP’s propaganda also relies on local media actors for content sharing. It has previously been pointed out that CCP propagandists favor “borrowing a boat to venture to sea” (借船出海), or partnering with existing international media to deliver a message tailored for local audiences. The content is more likely to impact a foreign audience this way than if disseminated directly by the PRC’s outlets themselves.122 One example of such a successful partnership brought up by a high-ranking propagandist was the CRI’s cooperation with the Turkish Yön Radyo (Direction Radio) in broadcasting the program “The Voice of Urumchi” on July 13–17, 2009. The program was designed to help a Turkish audience “understand the truth” (了解真相) about the recent violence in Urumchi and was simultaneously broadcast live by other Turkish stations and reported in major Turkish media.123 Yön Radyo had broadcast Xinjiang content in collaboration with the Xinjiang People’s Broadcasting Station (新疆人民广播电台) since 2007 under the terms of the PRC’s first radio cooperation contract with a Turkish station.124 Besides Aydınlık and Yön Radyo, other media outlets affiliated with or sympathetic to the VP and its position on Xinjiang are the Ulusal Kanal and Oda TV stations. Coverage sympathetic to China’s Xinjiang policy sometimes also appears in major Turkish media.

The influence cluster centered around Perinçek and the VP is reinforced by personal connections. Perinçek’s wife Şule, who is a member of the VP’s Central Executive Committee, is simultaneously a contributor to Aydınlık and also hosts shows for Ulusal TV.125 Perinçek’s daughter Kiraz has worked as a producer at CRI Turkish since 2006126 and is listed among the researchers of the Asian Studies Center of Boğaziçi University in Istanbul,127 which hosts another of the PRC’s four Confucius Institutes in Turkey128 (the remaining two are affiliated with the Middle East Technical University in Ankara and the Yeditepe University in Istanbul’s Ataşehir district; Confucius classroom is at the Jale Tezer College in Ankara129). The pool of contributors to Aydınlık includes also Kamil Erdoğdu, the editor of CRI Türk.130

The PRC’s Xinjiang work in the Turkish media field also involves taking journalists on media tours to Xinjiang, where they are instrumental in “attesting to the accomplishments in de‑extremification” (认可去极端化成就) and the overall correctness of the CCP’s Xinjiang policy.131 Such attestations are then disseminated in the Turkish media, as in the case of Perinçek’s visit to Xinjiang described above. In a similar case, the reporter Erdal Kuruçay reproduced the CCP’s propagandistic line in the wake of his tour to Xinjiang in January 2019. He pointed out that the visit enabled him to realize how mistaken his understanding of the Xinjiang problem had previously been due to the misleading Western reports and extolled the benefits of China’s Xinjiang policy, including the “education centers” for Uyghurs allegedly prone to crime. Kuruçay’s statements were published by Oda TV, which introduced him as an ATV station reporter who is “close to the government.” Another member of the visiting group, Misket Dikmen, who is the chairperson of the Journalists’ Association of Izmir, referred to the positive feedback on the education centers she had received after interviewing the students.132 The messaging from the press tours to Xinjiang can also be reproduced by the PRC’s Turkish language outlets, as it was in CRI Türk’s “interview” with Kuruçay held while he was still touring in Xinjiang.133

Press tours can also be orchestrated by the CCP in Turkey. One instance is the visit to Turkey by a “cultural exchange delegation” (文化交流团) organized by the SCIO in October 2018. At a meeting held in Ankara, the delegation briefed Turkey’s media professionals on the main tropes of CCP propaganda on: alleged economic development; the preservation of religious freedom; the struggle against terrorism, separatism, and extremism; social stability; people’s support for the actions of regional and central government against terrorism; and the Xinjiang’s pivotal role in the BRI and Turko-Chinese cooperation. The delegation included, for instance, the director of the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Philosophy, Murat Qyniyat (黑尼亚提). The group was headed by Xing Guangcheng (邢广程), the director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Chinese Borderland Research Institute (中国边疆研究所; previously known as the Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography, 中国边疆史地研究中心),134 a leading PRC academic institution involved in the legitimation of the CCP’s Xinjiang policies. In September 2020, the institute’s current director Xu Jianying (许建英) introduced the CCP’s “concrete practices of preventive counterterrorism and de-extremification” (预防性反恐和去极端化具体实践) in Xinjiang at the above-mentioned BRICS counterterrorism working group meeting.

The business field

Besides local political actors, the CCP’s influence work both targets and transmits through PRC nationals from Xinjiang. Such activities fall into the sub-category of “overseas Chinese affairs” within the united front system. An important actor is the Turkish Uyghur Industrialists and Entrepreneurs’ Association (土耳其维吾尔工商业者协会, Uygur Sanayici ve İşadamları Derneği). Founded in 2010 and ostensibly committed to supporting Uyghur business exchange between the two countries, the association also claims to be involved in a range of other activities, such as “improving perceptions by civil society,” “exchanging opinions and suggestions with decision makers,” and “advancing a dialogue between peoples” of the PRC and Turkey.135 Its chairman, a PRC-born Uyghur Sabir Boghda, is a businessman operating between Turkey and Xinjiang. He served as a non-voting delegate to two of the CCP’s foremost united front organs—to the third session of the 12th national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC, 中国人民政治协商会议) on March 3–13, 2015, and to the fourth session of the CPPCC’s 11th Xinjiang committee on January 10–16, 2016.136 Both prestigious appointments indicate that he is a person of particular value to the CCP’s agenda in Turkey. During the Xinjiang CPPCC session, Boghda said that upon his return to Turkey, he would “introduce the accomplishments of China’s reforms and opening to Turkish government, unite local overseas Chinese, and serve local PRC citizens.”137

Boghda’s activities are in united front work—namely, creating networks of pro-CCP individuals. In April 2017, as a chairman of the newly founded Turko-Chinese Overseas Chinese Chamber of Commerce (土耳其中国华人华侨总商会), Boghda organized an “Ethnic Unity Day” (民族团结日) attended by over 70 students of Uyghur, Kazakh, Han, and Hui origin, as well as officials from the PRC consulate in Istanbul, including the police consul and political department personnel. The chamber was expected by the consul general to function as a “multiethnic, interconnected, integrated new platform” (多民族互联共融新平台) for “ethnic unity and inclusive cooperation” (民族团结, 包容合作) and “gathering and serving” (凝聚服务) overseas Chinese in Turkey.138

Boghda also functions as a channel for the CCP’s propaganda directed toward Turkish audiences. He performed this role, for example, in a “pleasant conversation” with the news site Ulakçı (Messenger) in June 2020. The platform was founded in April 2019 by GKC Film Prodüksiyon Reklamcılık Limited Şirketi. Rather than being structured as an interview, the text presents a summary of Boghda’s promotion of possibilities Xinjiang allegedly presents for business with Turkey, as well as for development of Turko-Chinese ties. The text extols the benefits Turkey can derive from the BRI and other cooperation with China, the catalyzing role Xinjiang Uyghurs and Kazakhs can play in the process, the opportunities the Covid-19 pandemic presents for cooperation and development, and other regular CCP propaganda tropes. China was allegedly “the first country to notice and take measures” against the pandemic and “fought shoulder to shoulder with Turkey since the beginning.” The article did not touch on the problematic situation of Uyghurs and other Turkic nationalities in Xinjiang or the negative impact of the issue on Turko-Chinese relations.139 The text was reposted on the day of its original publication by CRI Türk140 and by the news site of Yön Radyo.141

When interviewed by Şule Perinçek on Ulusal TV in July 2020, Boghda similarly advertised the opportunities Xinjiang presents for Turko-Chinese trade, transportation, tourism, and other spheres of cooperation. The situation of Uyghurs in China was portrayed in a summarily positive way and critical issues were avoided altogether. Boghda stated that the connection between Uyghurs in Turkey and Xinjiang and associated projects are currently severed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.142 The promotion of business and Silk Road transportation networks also featured in Boghda’s statements published by Ulakçı in October 2020. Boghda legitimized himself with a recollection of his meeting with the PRC premier Wen Jiabao during his visit to Turkey in 2010 and stated that the association is “fighting against those who want to mislead Turkey on Uyghurs.” He also argued that if the Xinjiang problem is not framed as one of “separatism” but one of “unity,” the region can function as a bridge for Turko-Chinese economic relations.143 In August 2019, Boghda and the Turkey branch of the CCPPNR supported the CCP’s position on the Hong Kong protests against a bill stipulating extraditions to the PRC.144 The fact that the declaration was published on the association’s Chinese website is again an instance of the propaganda feedback loop designed to legitimate the CCP to the PRC audience.145 The statement was, furthermore, disseminated to the Turkish audience via CRI Türk.146

The academic field

The CCP also focuses on controlling Uyghur and other Xinjiang Muslim students in Turkey, perceiving them as a valuable foreign policy tool, or, in another words, as “pillars of the state” (国家栋梁) and “important new troops to implement the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” (实现中华民族伟大复兴中国梦的重要生力军). Students from Xinjiang are expected to use their language and professional skills to function as “people’s diplomats” (民间外交官). At the same time, the CCP expects them to return to China and Xinjiang after their studies in Turkey.147

To this end, the CCP seeks to co-opt the Xinjiang student diaspora using scholarships. Since 2011, the Xinjiang government’s department of education, an organ of the propaganda system, in cooperation with China’s overseas missions, has awarded prospective students and self-funding prospective students from Xinjiang studying abroad. In Turkey, twenty and eight scholarships from these respective categories were awarded in 2012.148 Besides assisting outstanding students in academic pursuits, the purpose of the 50,000 RMB scholarship for self-funding Xinjiang students was to encourage them to return to “serve the motherland and serve Xinjiang” (为国为疆服务). After the student received a degree, the respective embassy or consulate could issue a “priority recommendation” (优先推荐意见) to the Xinjiang organization where the returning awardee wished to find work. If, for any reason, the awardee did not intend to return to Xinjiang for the time being, the respective embassy or consulate was to maintain contact with the awardees and “encourage and urge them to serve the motherland in multiple ways” (鼓励并敦促其以多种形式为国服务).149

Another scholarship awarded by the Xinjiang government’s education department through the PRC missions in Turkey was the “Love Xinjiang Scholarship” (爱疆助学金) of up to 20,000 RMB. It was awarded to outstanding Xinjiang students who “fervently love the motherland and the people, preserve territorial integrity of the motherland and ethnic unity, do not participate at any activities or express any statements that would destroy ethnic unity, endanger state security or split the motherland” (热爱祖国, 热爱人民, 维护祖国统一和民族团结, 不参加和不发表任何破坏民族团结, 危害国家安全, 分裂祖国的活动和言论). Applicants needed to be previously registered with the PRC embassy in Ankara and were also expected to have “upheld the international image of China’s citizens” (维护中国公民的国际形象) and “actively participated at social activities which propagate and promote Turko-Chinese friendship” (积极参加宣传和促进中土友好的社会活动).150 For 2016, sixty students were awarded the scholarship by the Istanbul consulate151 and thirty-four by the Ankara embassy.152 It is unclear whether the Xinjiang government’s scholarship was awarded for 2017. In May 2019, consul Cui Wei awarded thirty-six Chinese overseas students with scholarships along with thirty-six Turkish students majoring in Chinese.153 In May 2020, Cui awarded the “Consul General’s Scholarship” to overseas students and congratulated ethnic minority students on the end of Ramadan.154


The focus of the above examination of the CCP’s Xinjiang work in Turkey did not enable a systematic discussion of the actors and content of propaganda and united front work relating to the CCP’s other interests, such as promotion of the BRI or activities by other united front organizations. While closely intertwined with the CCP’s other political objectives, its Xinjiang work in Turkey is mainly motivated by the negative impact of the extreme policies implemented in Xinjiang since Chen Quanguo’s assumption of power in August 2016, which has caused considerable damage to the PRC’s worldwide national image and foreign interests. In containing the Xinjiang crisis in Turkey, the CCP has sought mainly to incapacitate the politically active Uyghur diaspora, to legitimize its policies in Xinjiang and the overall political order of the PRC, and to represent Xinjiang as a stable core region of the BRI crucial for fruitful Turko-Chinese relations.

The article demonstrates that the CCP’s Xinjiang work in Turkey is a complex multiagency effort involving institutions from several systems (系统). Beijing’s new ambassadorial appointment to Ankara in October 2020 demonstrates the CCP’s conceptualization of its ties with Turkey as a security issue, presumably with the elimination of the negative impacts of the Xinjiang crisis in view. The new ambassador, Liu Shaobin, has extensive experience in working at the nexus of foreign and security affairs in his previous position as the head of the external security department at the PRC’s foreign ministry. Also widely involved with Xinjiang work in various foreign countries, including Turkey, is Liu’s former colleague at the foreign ministry’s external security department, the PRC’s foreign ministry external security commissioner Cheng Guoping. Cheng’s concurrent position at the China Association for International Friendly Contact links the foreign ministry to the political warfare and intelligence operations of the People’s Liberation Army. This link implies that the CCP’s Xinjiang work in Turkey is carried out by actors from both the military and foreign affairs systems.

The Xinjiang propaganda content formulated by the propaganda system is disseminated through the institutions of the foreign affairs system—particularly the Turkish-language websites of the embassy in Ankara and the consulate-general in Istanbul. Other actors hail from the CCP’s central propaganda system, namely China Radio International, operated by the China Media Group, and the China’s Xinjiang web portal maintained via the China International Communication Center by the State Council Information Office. The article also describes outgoing press tours, when delegations of PRC officials travel to Turkey and hold press meetings on Xinjiang. It shows that the CCP is capable of counter-representing in a systematic and responsive manner the principal aspects of the contentious Xinjiang problem to Turkish audiences. It also illustrates the involvement of academic actors within the propaganda system—for instance, the Chinese Borderland Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Institute of Philosophy of the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, and the China Public Diplomacy Association. The article thus corroborates previous findings on the trans-systemic nature of the CCP’s external propaganda and united front work in the important area of Xinjiang policy.155

The article also described activities of the united front system actors—namely, of the heretofore undiscussed Turkey branch of the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification and of the Uyghur businessman Sabir Boghda, who was formerly delegated to the national and the Xinjiang committees of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. These two actors play a role in forwarding the CCP’s interests in Turkey, in consolidating the overseas Chinese community, and in the so‑called propaganda feedback loop targeting Chinese-speaking audiences inside and outside the PRC. The description of the scholarships awarded by the Xinjiang regional government’s education department, belonging to the propaganda system, illustrates the CCP’s efforts to target future non-Han elites. The article also demonstrates that the CCP perceives businessmen, students, and other outstanding non-Han elites as both subjects of and protagonists in propaganda and united front work, illustrating the multiple linkages and overlaps of these two spheres of party work. The CCP actors’ donations of protective masks, offer of congratulations at the end of Ramadan, organization of fast-breaking meals for Xinjiang students, and celebration of the Nowruz festival exemplify how its propaganda and united front work in Turkey is localized by adopting Islamic themes in ways which are illegal inside Xinjiang under the Xi-Chen administration.

The CCP’s methods of forging ties with local political actors are illustrated using the case of the nationalist Patriotic Party led by Doğu Perinçek and its cooperation with the CCP’s International Liaison Office, an organ of the foreign affairs system. The article also shows how the CCP’s propaganda and united front work co-opts the Patriotic Party’s public discourse and media network comprising the Aydınlık daily and other allied platforms, the Yön Radyo, Ulusal Kanal TV, and Oda TV. This co-option enables the CCP to benefit from the fact that the messages instrumental to its Xinjiang interests reach Turkish audiences via local actors, who might be perceived as more credible than PRC institutions. The same purpose is served by the tours of Turkish media personnel in Xinjiang. These are jointly organized by the Xinjiang regional CCP committee and the central foreign affairs system, namely the CCP’s International Liaison Department. They are subsequently covered by Turkey’s media and sometimes also by the PRC Turkish-language media, such as China Radio International Türk. The media cooperation of the Patriotic Party with the CCP also involves actors of Beijing’s municipal propaganda system, as well as allied media organizations from other countries.

Overall, the described actors and content illustrate the scope and depth of the CCP’s Xinjiang propaganda and united front work in Turkey, attesting to the widely recognized significance of Xinjiang in both the domestic and the foreign policy of the CCP.156 Turkey’s international response to the Xinjiang crisis has so far been limited to infrequent criticisms in domestic and international venues. It remains to be seen to what extent the Erdoğan leadership’s declared pivot to Asia will translate into a fundamental foreign policy shift. But due to the troubled state of the Turkish economy and the AKP’s increasingly complicated domestic political standing, the current Turkish leadership is likely to continue seeing China as the country’s most important economic and financial partner. In the future, such dynamics might also entail political convergence, as the establishments in both countries improve their authoritarian politics and the two polities become ever more estranged from the international democratic bloc.

Turkey and China are heading for a series of important political events in the coming years. The year 2021 will see the 50th anniversary of mutual diplomatic relations and the 100th anniversary of the CCP. Xi Jinping can continue in his current powers beyond the CCP’s 20th congress, expected to take place in 2022, while in Turkey the current political course might continue at least until the next general election, which is scheduled for 2023. Future political developments and the degree to which the Turkish leadership will be willing to yield to China’s Xinjiang interests are—for now—hard to assess. In contrast, due to the Xi leadership’s declared resolve to maintain the present course of its Xinjiang policy regardless of its negative impact on the PRC’s global image and policy interests, the continuation of the CCP’s Xinjiang work in Turkey is more certain to continue.

Ondřej Klimeš is a researcher in modern China and Xinjiang politics at the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Sinopsis is a project implemented by the non-profit association AcaMedia z.ú., in scholarly collaboration with the Department of Sinology at Charles University in Prague.

  1. This research was funded by a Lumina Quaeruntur fellowship of the Czech Academy of Sciences and is an outcome of the Oriental Institute’s Power and Strategies of Social and Political Order research platform. The author thanks the editors of this special issue, two anonymous reviewers, Jichang Lulu, Hacer Z. Gonul, and Mehmet Volkan Kaşıkçı for valuable comments on an early version of this article.↩︎

  2. Anne-Marie Brady, Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought-Work in Contemporary China (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008), 1–8.↩︎

  3. Gerry Groot, Managing Transitions: The Chinese Communist Party, United Front Work, Corporatism and Hegemony (New York: Routledge, 2004), xii–xxiv.↩︎

  4. Zhao Taotao and James Leibold, “Ethnic Governance under Xi Jinping: The Centrality of the United Front Department and Its Implications,” Journal of Contemporary China 29, no. 124 (2020): 487–502; Alex Joske, “Reorganizing the United Front Work Department: New Structures for a New Era of Diaspora and Religious Affairs Work,” China Brief 19, no. 9 (2019); Ondřej Klimeš, “Advancing ‘Ethnic Unity’ and ‘De-Extremization’: Ideational Governance in Xinjiang under ‘New Circumstances’ (2012–2017),” Journal of Chinese Political Science 23, no.3 (2018): 413–26.↩︎

  5. Jarmila Ptáčková, “Attracting the Arabs? Promoting ‘Muslim’ China to Boost Regional Development in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region,” in Transnational Sites of China’s Cultural Diplomacy: Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle East, and Europe Compared, eds. Jarmila Ptáčková, Ondřej Klimeš, and Gary Rawnsley (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 145–171; Lucille Greer and Bradley Jardine, “The Chinese Islamic Association in the Arab World: The Use of Islamic Soft Power in Promoting Silence on Xinjiang,” Middle East Institute, July 14, 2020; Mohammed Al-Sudairi, “The Communist Party of China’s United Front Work in the Gulf: The ‘Ethnic Minority Overseas Chinese’ of Saudi Arabia as a Case Study,” King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, March 2018.↩︎

  6. Anna Hayes, “Interwoven ‘Destinies’: The Significance of Xinjiang to the China Dream, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Xi Jinping Legacy,” Journal of Contemporary China 29, no. 121 (2020): 31–45; Michael Clarke, “Beijing’s Pivot West: The Convergence of Innenpolitik and Aussenpolitik on China’s ‘Belt and Road’?” Journal of Contemporary China 29, no. 123 (2020): 336–353.↩︎

  7. Kenneth Lieberthal, Governing China: From Revolution through Reform (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2004), 215–33; Zheng Yongnian and Chen Gang, “The Chinese Communist Party: An Institutional Perspective,” in Handbook of the Politics of China, ed. David S. G. Goodman (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2015), 57–75.↩︎

  8. Ondřej Klimeš, “China’s Xinjiang Work in Turkey,”, August 11, 2019.↩︎

  9. Ondřej Klimeš, “China’s Tactics for Targeting the Uyghur Diaspora in Turkey,” China Brief 19, no. 19 (November 1, 2019): 6–9.↩︎

  10. Selçuk Colakoğlu, “Turkey-China Relations: From ‘Strategic Cooperation’ to ‘Strategic Partnership’?,” Middle East Institute, March 20, 2018; Ahmet Faruk Isik and Zou Zhiqiang, “China-Turkey Security Cooperation Under the Background of the ‘Belt and Road’ and the ‘Middle Corridor’ Initiatives,” Asian Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies 13, no. 2 (2019): 278–93.↩︎

  11. Murad Sezer, “Without Papers, Uighurs Fear for Their Future in Turkey,” Reuters, March 27, 2019.↩︎

  12. Author’s interviews with informants, Istanbul and Ankara, May, June, and August 2019; Mohamed Mostafa and Mohamed Nagi, “They Are Not Welcome. Report on the Uyghur Crisis in Egypt,” Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms and Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, 2017; Nour Youssef, “Egyptian Police Detain Uighurs and Deport Them to China,” The New York Times, July 6, 2017.↩︎

  13. Jacob Zenn, “The Turkistan Islamic Party in Double-Exile: Geographic and Organizational Divisions in Uighur Jihadism,” Terrorism Monitor 16, no. 17 (September 7, 2018): 8–11 Mathieu Duchâtel, “China’s Foreign Fighters Problem,” War on the Rocks, January, 25, 2019.↩︎

  14. Micha’el Tanchum, “Turkey’s Strong Rebuke of China’s Uighur Policy Reveals Inherent Limit of Sino-Turkish Cooperation,” The Turkey Analyst, February 20, 2019; Erkin Ekrem, “The Uyghur Factor in Turkish-Chinese Relations after the Urumqi Events,” in The Uyghur Community: Diaspora, Identity and Geopolitics, eds. Güljanat Kurmangaliyeva Ercilasun and Konuralp Ercilasun (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 153–178; Yitzhak Shichor, “Ethno-Diplomacy: The Uyghur Hitch in Sino-Turkish Relations,” East-West Center, 2009.↩︎

  15. Hürriyet, “Prime Minister: What Happened in China is in Fact Genocide” (Başbakan: Çin’de Olanlar ’Adeta Soykırım), July 10, 2009.↩︎

  16. Humeyra Pamuk, “Turkish Help for Uighur Refugees Looms over Erdoğan Visit to Beijing,” Reuters, 27 July 2015.↩︎

  17. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic, “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy’s Response to the Question of Severe Human Rights Violations Against Uyghur Turks and the Death of the People’s Poet Abduréhim Héyit” (Dışişleri Bakanlığı Sözcüsü Hami Aksoy’un Uygur Türklerine Yönelik Ağır İnsan Hakları İhlalleri ve Halk Ozanı Abdurrehim Heyit’in Vefatı Hakkındaki Soruya Cevabı), February 9, 2019; Hürriyet, “Çelik’s Important Clarification: In the Kaşıkçı Crime…” (Çelik’ten Önemli Açıklama: ’Kaşıkçı Cinayetinde…), February 11, 2019; UN Web TV, “Turkey, High-Level Segment – 2nd Meeting, 40th Regular Session Human Rights Council,” February 25, 2019.↩︎

  18. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “Chinese Government Decides to Temporarily Close China Consulate General in Izmir” (中国政府决定暂时关闭中国驻伊兹密尔总领馆), PRC Embassy in Ankara, February 26, 2019.↩︎

  19. Lili Kuo, “Belt and Road Forum: China’s ‘Project of the Century’ Hits Tough Times”, The Guardian, April 25, 2019.↩︎

  20. Hürriyet, “AKP Spokesperson Ömer Çelik’s Important Clarifications” (AK Parti Sözcüsü Ömer Çelik’ten Önemli Açıklamalar), September 29, 2020.↩︎

  21. Organization of Islamic Cooperation, “Resolutions on Muslim Communities and Muslim Minorities in the Non-OIC Member States,” March 1–2, 2019.↩︎

  22. CCTV, “Xi Jinping Holds Talk with Turkey’s President” (习近平同土耳其总统举行会谈), July 2, 2019.↩︎

  23. Nordic Monitor, “Turkey’s Beijing Embassy Fails to Mention Uyghurs in Its Annual Report,” July 25, 2020.↩︎

  24. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic, “Our Country’s National Statement on Uyghur Turks at the Meeting of the 3rd Committee of the UN’s 75th General Assembly on October 6, 2020” (Ülkemizin BM 75. Genel Kurulu III. Komitesinin 6 Ekim 2020 Tarihli Toplantısıda Uyghur Türkleri Konusunda Ulusal Beyanı), October 6, 2020.↩︎

  25. Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the UN, “Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen on behalf of 39 Countries in the Third Committee General Debate,” October 6, 2020.↩︎

  26. BBC, “Turkey’s Erdoğan Urges French Goods Boycott amid Islam Row,” October 26, 2020.↩︎

  27. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, “Turkey and China: Merging Realpolitik with Idealism,” The Turkey Analyst 8, no. 15, 2015; Selçuk Colakoğlu, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Turkey’s Middle Corridor: A Question of Compatibility,” Middle East Institute, January 29, 2019.↩︎

  28. Fethullah Gülen is a Turkish religious scholar and the leader of a movement previously aligned with the AKP. The two diverged in 2013 after Gülen’s criticism of the government’s suppression of civic demonstrations at Gezi Park in Istanbul. Gülen resides in the US and is wanted in Turkey as the leader of a terrorist organization and as the instigator of the 15 July 2016 coup attempt.↩︎

  29. Çağdaş Üngör, “Heading towards the East? Sino-Turkish Relations after the July 15 Coup Attempt,” in Turkey’s Pivot to Eurasia: Geopolitics and Foreign Policy in a Changing World Order, eds. Emre Erşen and Seçkin Köstem (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019), 64–78; Nicola P. Contessi, “Turkey and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Common Values, Economics, or Pure Geopolitics?” in Turkey’s Pivot to Eurasia: Geopolitics and Foreign Policy in a Changing World Order, eds. Emre Erşen and Seçkin Köstem (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019), 93–110.↩︎

  30. Ayca Alemdaroglu, Sultan Tepe, “Erdoğan Is Turning Turkey into a Chinese Client State,” Foreign Policy, September 16, 2020.↩︎

  31. Colakoğlu, “Turkey-China Relations.”↩︎

  32. Xinhua Online, “Turkey’s New Ambassador to China Expects the Turko-Chinese Relations to Rise to Higher Level” (新任土耳其驻华大使期待土中关系迈向更高水平), December 6, 2020; Grand National Asembly of Turkey (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi), October 30, 2020.↩︎

  33. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Foreign Vice Minister Le Yucheng Expresses Three Resolute Supports to Turkey” (外交部副部长乐玉成向土耳其表达三个坚定支持), September 14, 2018.↩︎

  34. Li Fuquan, “The Role of Islam in the Development of the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative,” Asian Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies 12, no. 1 (2018): 35–45; Zhao Huan, “Xinjiang’s External Broadcasting within the One Belt One Road Framework” (‘一带一路’ 背景下的新疆对外传播), Xinwen zhanxian, January 22, 2018; Tianshan, “Running at the Forefront of Opening” (奔跑在开放前沿), September 23, 2020.↩︎

  35. Uyghur Human Rights Project, “The Fifth Poison,” November 28, 2017; Ondřej Klimeš, “Xinjiang in China’s Public Diplomacy in Central Asia: Case Study of Almaty,” in Transnational Sites of China’s Cultural Diplomacy: Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle East, and Europe Compared, eds. Jarmila Ptáčková, Ondřej Klimeš, and Gary Rawnsley (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 35–63.↩︎

  36. James To, “Beijing’s Policies for Managing Han and Ethnic-Minority Chinese Communities Abroad,” Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 41, no. 4 (2012): 183–221.↩︎

  37. CCP Central Committee’s United Front Work Department, “Minority Nationality Overseas Chinese,” 2016.↩︎

  38. Peter Mattis, “China’s Three Warfares in Perspective,” War on the Rocks, January 30, 2018.↩︎

  39. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, “Exclusive: Documents Show China’s Secret Extradition Request for Uighur in Turkey,” Axios, May 20, 2020; Joanna Kakissis, “’I Thought It Would Be Safe: Uighurs In Turkey Now Fear China’s Long Arm,” NPR, March 13, 2020; Ondřej Klimeš, “China’s Tactics.”↩︎

  40. Nordic Monitor, “Turkey-China Extradition Agreement May Target Uyghurs Living in Turkey,” May 20, 2020; Ondřej Klimeš, “China’s Xinjiang Work.”↩︎

  41. Ahval News, “Uighur Man in Critical Condition after Being Shot in Istanbul,” November 3, 2020.↩︎

  42. Author’s interviews with informants, Istanbul and Ankara, May, June, and August 2019; Abdürreşit Celil Karluk, “Uyghur Refugees Living in Turkey and Their Problems,” in A. Merthan Dündar, ed., Exchange of Experiences for the Future: Japanese and Turkish Humanitarian Aid and Support Activities in Conflict Zones (Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi, 2018), 86–97.↩︎

  43. Xinhua Online, “Xi Jinping Telephones with Turkey’s President Erdoğan” (习近平同土耳其总统埃尔多安通电话), April 8, 2020.↩︎

  44. John Dotson, “The United Front Work Department Goes Global: The Worldwide Expansion of the Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China,” China Brief 19, no. 9 (2019).↩︎

  45. CCPPNR, “Statement of Strong Condemnation by Turkey’s CCPPNR of the Passing of the ‘2019 Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act’ by the US Congress’ House of Representatives” (土耳其中国和平统一促进会强烈谴责美国国会众议院通过 “2019 年维吾尔人权政策法案”的声明), December 16, 2019.↩︎

  46. CCPPNR, “Turkey’s CCPPNR Strongly Condemns Trampling on Hong Kong’s Rule of Law and Damaging the ‘One Country Two Systems’ Principle” (土耳其中国和平统一促进会强烈谴责践踏香港法治, 破坏“一国两制”), August 19, 2019; CCPPNR, “Overseas CCPPNRs Oppose and Condemn the Passing of So-Called ‘2019 Taipei Act’ by the US Congress’ House of Representatives” (海外统促会抗议和谴责美国会众议院通过所谓 ‘2019年台北法案’), March 9, 2020.↩︎

  47. CCPPNR, “Turkey’s CCPPNR Donates Anti-Epidemic Supplies to a Local Government” (土耳其中国和平统一促进会向当地政府捐赠抗疫物资), March 25, 2020; Sözcü, “China Donates 10,000 Masks to Maltepe” (Çin’den Maltepe’ye 10 Bin Maske Bağışı), March 24, 2020.↩︎

  48. CCPPNR, “Turkey’s CCPPNR Donates Medical Masks to the Beşiktaş District’s City Government” (土耳其中国和平统一促进会向贝西克塔斯区政府捐赠医用口罩), May 18, 2020.↩︎

  49. Beşiktaş Municipal Assembly Members (Beşiktaş Belediyesi Meclis Üyeleri), accessed November 23, 2020.↩︎

  50. CCPPNR, “Turkey’s CCPPNR Donates 50,000 Medical Protective Face Masks to Istanbul Municipal Government” (土耳其中国和平统一促进会向伊斯坦布尔市政府捐赠5万个医用防护口罩), July 30, 2020.↩︎

  51. Ekrem İmamoğlu, “Congratulatory Visit of China’s Consul General Wei to İmamoğlu” (İmamoğlu’na Çin’in İstanbul Başkonsolosu Wei’den Tebrik Ziyareti), April 22, 2019.↩︎

  52. Jurnalist, “Why Did the Chinese-Language Signs Hung at Istanbul Stations Incur Reaction?” (İstanbul’daki Duraklara Asılan Çince Yönlendirme Tabelaları Neden Tepki Çekti?), October 8, 2019.↩︎

  53. People’s Daily, “Istanbul New Airport Launches ‘China Friendly Airport’ Project” (伊斯坦布尔新机场启动“中国友好机场”项目), September 22, 2020.↩︎

  54. Consulate General of the PRC in Istanbul, Turkey, “Consulate General in Istanbul Holds Online Reception to Celebrate 71st Anniversary of the PRC’s Founding” (驻伊斯坦布尔总领馆举行庆祝中华人民共和国成立71周年线上招待会), October 1, 2020.↩︎

  55. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “State Council Appoints and Discharges State Employees” (国务院任免国家工作人员), August 31, 2020.↩︎

  56. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Assistant Foreign Minister Deng Li Meets with Turkey’s China Ambassador Önen” (外交部部长助理邓励会见土耳其驻华大使约南), September 23, 2020.↩︎

  57. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “Short Bio of the PRC’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in the Turkish Republic Liu Shaobin” (中华人民共和国驻土耳其共和国特命全权大使刘少宾简历), October 30, 2020.↩︎

  58. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Department of External Security Affairs” (涉外安全事务司), November 8, 2020.↩︎

  59. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Director of the Department of External Security Affairs Liu Shaobin Attends the Fifth Meeting of the BRICS’ Counterterrorism Working Group” (外交部涉外安全事务司司长刘少宾出席金砖国家反恐工作组第五次会议), September 3, 2020.↩︎

  60. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Foreign Ministry’s External Security Commissioner Cheng Guoping Meets with Turkey’s Ambassador to the PRC Önen” (外交部涉外安全事务专员程国平会见土耳其驻华大使约南), August 27, 2020.↩︎

  61. Security Reference, “State Counter-Terrorism and Security Commissioner Cheng Guoping: How to Strike against Cyberterrorism” (国家反恐安全专员程国平:如何打击网络恐怖主义), January 13, 2018; Sohu Mobile, “How to View the Counter-Terrorist Situation in Xinjiang? State Counter-Terrorism and Security Commissioner Answers” (如何看待新疆反恐形势?国家反恐安全专员回应), March 13, 2017; China Today, “Enhance Cooperation on Anti-Terrorism to Safeguard World Peace and Stability: Interview with Cheng Guoping, State Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism and Security Matters of China,” May 5, 2017.↩︎

  62. Sean R. Roberts, “The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority,” (Princeton University Press: Princeton and Oxford, 2020), 69–75.↩︎

  63. China Association for International Friendly Contact, March 3, 2020.↩︎

  64. Mark Stokes and Russell Hsiao, “The People’s Liberation Army General Political Department: Political Warfare with Chinese Characteristics,” Project 2049, October 14, 2013; Alex Joske, “The Party Speaks for You: Foreign Interference and the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front System,” Australian Strategic Policy Institute, June 2020.↩︎

  65. David Shambaugh, “China’s External Propaganda Work: Missions, Messengers, Mediums,” Party Watch Annual Report 2018, eds. David Gitter and Julia G. Bowie (Center for Advanced Research, October 18, 2018), 25–33.↩︎

  66. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Foreign Ministry’s External Security Commissioner Cheng Guoping Holds a Video Meeting of Trans-Departmental and Trans-Regional Security Cooperation Mechanism with Afghanistan’s State Security Commission Deputy Advisor Fahim” (外交部涉外安全事务专员程国平同阿富汗国安委副顾问法希姆举行双跨机制视频会议), November 12, 2020.↩︎

  67. Federal Register, “In the Matter of the Designation of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement Also Known as ETIM as a ‘Terrorist Organization’ Pursuant to Section 212(a)(3)(B)(vi)(II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as Amended,” November 5, 2020.↩︎

  68. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Spokesperson Wang Wenbin Holds Regular Press Conference on November 6, 2020” (2020年11月6日外交部发言人汪文斌主持例行记者会), November 6, 2020.↩︎

  69. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Foreign Ministry’s External Security Commissioner Cheng Guoping Meets with Turkey’s Ambassador to the PRC Önen” (外交部涉外安全事务专员程国平会见土耳其驻华大使约南), November 18, 2020.↩︎

  70. David Shambaugh, “China’s External Propaganda Work”; Tsai Wen-Hsuan, “Enabling China’s Voice to Be Heard by the World: Ideas and Operations of the Chinese Communist Party’s External Propaganda System,” Problems of Post-Communism 64, no. 3-4, 203–13.↩︎

  71. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “Response of the Spokesperson of China’s Embassy in Ankara to the Clarification of the AKP’s Spokesperson on the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” (Çin Ankara Büyükelçiliği Sözcüsünden Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi Sözcüsü’nün Xinjiang Uygur Özerk Bölgesi ile ilgili Açıklamasına İlişkin Cevap), September 30, 2020; Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “Comment of the Spokesperson of China’s Embassy on the Statement of Turkey’s Representative at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on China’s Xinjiang” (Çin Büyükelçiliği Sözcüsünün Türkiye’nin Temsilcisinin BM Genel Kurulu Üçüncü Komitesi’nde Çin’in Xinjiang Hakkında Konuşmasına Dair Yaptığı Açıklama), October 7, 2020.↩︎

  72. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Record of the Interview of the Ambassador to Turkey Deng Li by Turkish Media” (驻土耳其大使邓励接受土媒体采访实录), February 13, 2019.↩︎

  73. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “Information Department of the China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Once Again Resolutely Responds to Fake News about China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Produced and Broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (Çin Dışişleri Bakanlığı Enformasyon Dairesi Çin’in Xinjiang Uygur Özerk Bölgesi Hakkında Sahte Haberler Üreten ve Yayınlayan İngiliz Yayın Şirketi’ne [BBC] Bir Kez Daha Sert Tepki Gösterdi), September 2, 2020.↩︎

  74. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Information Department Resolutely Responds to Fake News about Xinjiang Produced and Broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation” (外交部新闻司负责人就英国广播公司 制作并播放涉疆假新闻提出严正交涉), August 7, 2020.↩︎

  75. BBC, “China Defends Detention of Uighur Model in Xinjiang,” August 17, 2020.↩︎

  76. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “13th Press Conference on Xinjiang Matters” (Xinjiang İle İlgili Konular Üzerine 13. Basın Toplantısı), August 30, 2020.↩︎

  77. Adrian Zenz, “Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang,” Jamestown Foundation, Washington DC, July 21, 2020.↩︎

  78. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “12th Press Conference on Xinjiang Matters” (Xinjiang ile ilgili Konular Üzerine 12. Basın Toplantısı), August 27, 2020.↩︎

  79. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “China Decides to Take Reciprocal Measures against Those in the US Who Are Taking Completely Wrong Steps on Xinjiang” (Çin, ABD’de Xinjiang ile ilgili Konularda Tamamen Yanlış Uygulamalar Yürütenlere Karşı Mütekabil Önlemler Almaya Kararı Verdi), July 10, 2020.↩︎

  80. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “Press Conference in the PRC’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, June 20, Urumchi” (Çin Halk Cumhuriyeti Xinjiang Uygur Özerk Bölgesi Basın Toplantısı; 20. 06. 2020, Urumçi), June 30, 2020.↩︎

  81. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “Clarification of the Spokesperson of the PRC’s Embassy in Ankara on Xinjiang” (Çin Halk Cumhuriyeti Ankara Büyükelçiliği Sözcüsü’nün Xinjiang Konusuna İlişkin Açıklaması), July 6, 2020; Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “False Allegations and Facts about China’s Xinjiang” (Çin Xinjiang ile ilgili Yanlış İddialar ve Doğrular, 1–5), July 5, 2020.↩︎

  82. Facebook profile of the Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, accessed November 23, 2020.↩︎

  83. Vanessa Frangville, “Chinese Cinema’s Push to Produce the Ideal Uyghur Citizen,” Coda Story, November 5, 2020.↩︎

  84. CRI Türk, “Employment Thrives in Xinjiang” (Xinjiang’daki İstihdam Gelişiyor), October 21, 2020.↩︎

  85. CRI Online Türkçe, “Proper Jobs in Humane Conditions Provided to Ethnic Minority Citizens in Xinjiang” (Xinjiang’da Etnik Azınlık Vatandaşlara İnsanca Koşullarda Düzgün İşler Sunuluyor), October 20, 2020.↩︎

  86. China’s Xinjiang Online, “Survey Finds Civilian Labor Employment of Xinjiang’s Minority Nationalities Obviously Voluntary, Autonomous, and Free” (调查发现新疆少数民族民众劳动就业呈现明显的自愿性, 自主性和自由性), October 21, 2020.↩︎

  87. CRI Türk, “Beijing Saati,” October 15, 2020.↩︎

  88. Tanrıdağ, October 15, 2020.↩︎

  89., October 20, 2020.↩︎

  90. China’s Xinjiang, November 15, 2020.↩︎

  91. Ondřej Klimeš, “China’s Public Diplomacy in Central Asia.”↩︎

  92. Consulate General of the PRC in Istanbul, Turkey, “Consul General Cui Wei Congratulates Ramadan to Xinjiang Abroad Compatriots within Consular District” (崔巍总领事向新疆籍侨胞致以开斋节问候), May 22, 2020.↩︎

  93. Author’s interviews with informants, Istanbul and Ankara, May, June, and August 2019.↩︎

  94. Nowruz (Pers. new day) was originally a Zoroastrian festival marking the first day of a new year. Its celebration by multiple Muslim ethno-linguistic communities, such as Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of Central Asia, has involved the adoption of prayers and other religious content.↩︎

  95. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “[Xinjiang Students and Compatriots] Must Embrace Each Other as Tightly as Pomegranate Seeds” (要像石榴籽一样紧紧抱在一起), March 22, 2018.↩︎

  96. John Dotson, “The United Front Work Department Goes Global.”↩︎

  97. Xinjiang United Front Work, “Basic Information on Recognizing the ‘Seventy-Five Specific Expressions’ of Religious Extremist Activities,” (识别宗教极端活动(75种具体表现)基础知识), June 19, 2017.↩︎

  98. People’s Daily, “Turkey’s Workers’ and Peasants’ Party Formed, Chairman Doğu Perinçek Emphasizes Opposition to Superpowers” (土耳其工农党成立, 多乌·佩林切克主席强调反对超级大国), February 13, 1978, 5; Yeni Şafak, “Doğu Perinçek: Mao Stands, We Only Changed the Discourse” (Doğu Perinçek: Mao Duruyor, Sadece Söylemi Değiştirdik), September 11, 2006. The ideology named after the founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Pasha, also known as the Father of Turks (Atatürk), includes a range of republican, populist, nationalist, secularist, statist, and reformist principles, as well as inclinations to authoritarianism.↩︎

  99. Emre Erşen, “The Return of Eurasianism in Turkey: Relations with Russia and Beyond,” in Turkey’s Pivot to Eurasia: Geopolitics and Foreign Policy in a Changing World Order, eds. Emre Erşen and Seçkin Köstem (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019), 35–39.↩︎

  100. Ahmet S. Yayla, “The Strange Case of Perinçek, Erdoğan, and the Russia Triangle,” The Investigative Journal, September 2019.↩︎

  101. Vatan Partisi, “Doğu Perinçek: The Eurasian Age and its New Civilization,” December 6, 2017.↩︎

  102. Martin Hála and Jichang Lulu, “A New Comintern for the New Era: The CCP International Department from Bucharest to Reykjavík,” Sinopsis, 16 August 2018.↩︎

  103. CCP Central Committee’s ILD, “Li Jun Meets Patriotic Party’s Delegation” (李军会见土耳其爱国党干部考察团), February 22, 2019; Aydınlık, “China Thanks Perinçek: Opposition to Separatism Is the Foundation of Turko-Chinese Relations!” (Çin’den Perinçek’e Teşekkür: Bölücülüğe Karşı Tutum Türk-Çin İlişkilerinin Temeli!), February 22, 2019.↩︎

  104. Xinjiang Daily, “Meeting on ‘China’s Ethnic Policy and Ethnic Unity—Practice in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’ Held in Urumchi” (中国的民族政策和民族团结——新疆维吾尔自治区的实践专题宣介会在乌鲁木齐举行), February 28, 2019.↩︎

  105. Aıdınlık, “Perinçek Affirms to International Convention in Urumchi: Turkey and China Face a Common Threat of Terror” (Perinçek Urumçi’deki Uluslarası Toplantıya Damga Vurdu: Türkiye ve Çin’e Ortak Terör Tehdidi), February 27, 2019.↩︎

  106. Xinhua Online, “Turkish Party Head: Xinjiang People Living in a Brotherly Atmosphere in China,” January 8, 2020.↩︎

  107. Oda TV, “Interesting Remarks at China-Turkey Summit” (Çin Türkiye Zirvesinde İlginç Sözler), May 30, 2019.↩︎

  108. Vatan Partisi, “Three Conferences on ‘Turkish-Chinese Cooperation for a Leap Forward in Production,’” June 15, 2019.↩︎

  109. Abdulla Ayasun, “What Does Turkey-China Business Summit in Ankara Tell?The Medium, May 30, 2019.↩︎

  110. Ibid.↩︎

  111. Author’s interviews with informants, Istanbul and Ankara, May, June, and August 2019.↩︎

  112. Oda TV, “Interesting Remarks”; Vatan Partisi, “Three Conferences.”↩︎

  113. Confucius Institutes’ Headquarters—State Office of the Leading Small Group for International Promotion of Chinese Language (孔子学院总部 – 国家汉办), October 20, 2020.↩︎

  114. Sputnik Türkiye, “Third Conference on ‘Turkish-Chinese Cooperation for a Leap Forward in Production’ Was Held in Ankara” (‘Üretimde Atılım için Türkiye-Çin İşbirliği’ Toplantılarının 3.’sü Ankara’da Yapıldı), May 30, 2019.↩︎

  115. Erkin Öncan, “China’s Consul General in Istanbul Cui Wei: People Affected by Religious Extremist Thinking Return to Modern Lives in Education Centers” (Çin İstanbul Başkonsolosu Cui Wei: Aşırı Dinci Düşüncelerden Etkilenen İnsanlar, Eğitim Merkezlerinde Modern Bir Hayata Kavuşuyor), Sputnik Türkiye. February 25, 2019.↩︎

  116. Erkin Öncan, “False Claims,” Global Times, January 10, 2019.↩︎

  117. Aıdınlık, “Davutoğlu with Uyghur Provocateurs” (Davutoğlu Uygur Kışkırtıcılarıyla), October 19, 2020.↩︎

  118. Alexander Dugin, “Turkey in Multipolar World Structure” (Çok Kutuplu Dünya Yapısı içinde Türkiye), May 27, 2019.↩︎

  119. Beijing Municipal People’s Congress, “International Municipal Media Beijing Forum Held” (国际城市媒体北京论坛举行), December 14, 2019.↩︎

  120. China Public Diplomacy Association, “China Public Diplomacy Association Receives a Delegation of Turkish Media and Think-Tank Representatives” (中国公共外交协会接待土耳其媒体智库代表访华团), May 30, 2018.↩︎

  121. CCP Central Committee’s ILD, “Zhu Rui and Chairman of Turkey’s Patriotic Party Perinçek Hold Video Conference and Attend the Inauguration Ceremony of the Online Seminar for Patriotic Party’s Cadres” (朱锐同土耳其爱国党主席佩林切克举行视频会晤并出席爱国党干部网络研修班开班式), September 24, 2020; Vatan Partisi, “Patriotic Party and the Communist Party of China Discussed Turko-Chinese Cooperation” (Vatan Partisi ile Çin Komünist Partisi, Türkiye – Çin İşbirliğini Görüştü), September 24, 2020.↩︎

  122. Jichang Lulu, “China’s State Media and the Outsourcing of Soft Power,” China Policy Institute, July 15, 2015.↩︎

  123. Wang, Gengnian (王庚年), “Building First Class International Media, Actively Striving for International Discursive Power” (建设国际一流媒体, 积极争取国际话语权), Qiushi, October 9, 2011.↩︎

  124. Veli Boztepe, “Chinese Media in Turkey as a Means of Soft Power” (Bir Yumuşak Güç Kaynağı Olarak Türkiye’deki Çin Medyası), Anadolu University Journal of Social Sciences 16, no. 4 (2016): 93–110.↩︎

  125. Vatan Partisi Merkez Yürütme Kurulu, November 15, 2020; Aydınlık, “Authors” (Yazarlar), November 15, 2020.↩︎

  126. Yeni Şafak, “On Radio China You Listened to Perinçek” (Çin Radyosu’nda Perinçek’i Dinlediniz), April 26, 2008.↩︎

  127. Boğaziçi University Asian Studies Center, October 20, 2020.↩︎

  128. Confucius Institute at Boğaziçi University, November 15, 2020.↩︎

  129. Confucius Institutes’ Headquarters, November 15, 2020.↩︎

  130. Aydınlık, “Authors” (Yazarlar), November 15, 2020.↩︎

  131. Xinjiang United Front, “Media Reporters from Twenty-Four Countries Visit Xinjiang to Experience Social Stability and Improvement in People’s Lives and to Attest to Accomplishments in De-Extremification Work” (24国媒体记者探访新疆, 感受社会稳定民生改善, 认可去极端化成就), July 25, 2019.↩︎

  132. Oda TV, “ATV Reporter: ‘We Saw How Many Mistakes We Had Made’” (ATV muhabiri: ‘Ne kadar hata yaptığımızı gördük’), January 17, 2019.↩︎

  133. CRI Online Türkçe, “Silk Road Delegation Meets with Xinjiang Religious Officials” (İpek Yolu Heyeti, Xinjiang’lı Din Görevlileriyle Bir Araya Geldi), January 15, 2019.↩︎

  134. Guangming Daily Online, “Xinjiang Cultural Exchange Delegation Holds a News Media Exchange Meeting in Turkey” (中国新疆文化交流团在土耳其举行新闻媒体交流会), October 25, 2018.↩︎

  135. “Charter of the Uyghur Industrial and Commercial Entrepreneurs’ Association” (Uygur Sanayici ve İş Adamları Derneği Tüzüğü), accessed November 23, 2020.↩︎

  136. Xinhua Online, “Being a Non-Voting Delegate Once Honors One for Life: The Overseas Non-Voting Delegates in the Spotlight” (一次列席, 一生荣誉: 解密政协会议海外列席组), March 3, 2015; CCP Central Committee United Front Work Department, “Minority Nationality Overseas Chinese from Xinjiang Participate for the First Time as Non-Voting Delegates at Xinjiang CPPCC Session” (海外新疆籍少数民族侨胞首次列席新疆政协会议), January 14, 2016.↩︎

  137. Ibid.↩︎

  138. Consulate General of the PRC in Istanbul, Turkey, “Consulate General in Istanbul Positively Approves of the Ethnic Unity Day Activities by the Turko-Chinese Overseas Chinese Chamber of Commerce” (驻伊斯坦布尔总领馆积极肯定土耳其中国华人华侨总商会民族团结日活动), April 15, 2017.↩︎

  139. Ulakçı, “President Boğda: If Two Giant Countries Steadfastly Seize the Opportunity for Investment, Any Crisis Can Turn into an Opportunity,” (Başkan Boğda: İki Dev Ülke Yatırımda Istikrarı Zakalarsa Her Türlü Krizi Fırsata Çevirebilir), June 12, 2020.↩︎

  140. CRI Türk, “More Attractive Opportunities for Turkey from China” (Türkiye Çin’den daha cazip olanaklara sahip), June 12, 2020.↩︎

  141. Yön Haber, “Sabir Boğda: Any Crisis Can Turn into an Opportunity” (Sabir Boğda : Her Türlü Kriz Fırsata Çevirebilir), June 12, 2020.↩︎

  142. Ulusal Kanal, “New Horizons” (Yeni Ufuklar), July 12, 2020.↩︎

  143. Ulakçı, “Boğda: Urumchi Can Be a Bridge in Economic Relations with China” (Çin İle Ekonomik Ilişkilerde Urumçi Köprü Olabilir), October 2, 2020.↩︎

  144. CRI Online, “Turkey Overseas Chinese Ardently Denounce Violent Demonstrations and Actions in Hong Kong” (土耳其华人华侨强烈谴责香港暴力示威活动), August 19, 2019.↩︎

  145. John Dotson, “The United Front Work Department Goes Global.”↩︎

  146. CRI Türk, “Response from Turkey to Violent Actions in Hong Kong” (Türkiye’den Hong Kong’daki Şiddet Eylemlerine Tepki), August 19, 2019.↩︎

  147. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, “Consulate General in Istanbul Holds Award Ceremony for the 2015 ‘Love Xinjiang’ Scholarship of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Government” (驻伊斯坦布尔总领馆举行2015年度新疆自治区政府爱疆助学金颁发仪式), January 24, 2016.↩︎

  148. CRI Online, “China’s Embassy in Turkey Issues Awards to Overseas Xinjiang Students in Turkey” (中国驻土耳其大使馆向新疆籍留学生发放助学金), December 27, 2012.↩︎

  149. Service Site for Overseas Students in Singapore, “Interim Project Implementation Measures on the Scholarship for Outstanding Self-Funding Xinjiang Overseas Students” (新疆籍优秀自费留学生奖学金项目实施暂行办法), April 6, 2012.↩︎

  150. Embassy of the PRC in the Turkish Republic, “Announcement on How to Apply for the 2017 ‘Love Xinjiang’ Scholarship of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region People’s Government” (关于申领2017年度新疆维吾尔自治区人民政府“爱疆”助学金的通知), February 15, 2018.↩︎

  151. Consulate General of the PRC in Istanbul, Turkey, “Consulate General in Istanbul Holds Award Ceremony for the 2016 ‘Love Xinjiang’ Scholarships” (驻伊斯坦布尔总领馆举办2016年度 ’爱疆’助学金颁奖仪式), August 19, 2017.↩︎

  152. China Cultural Centre, “China’s Embassy in Turkey Awards ‘Love Xinjiang Scholarship’ to Xinjiang Overseas Students” (中国驻土耳其大使馆向新疆籍留学生颁发 ‘爱疆奖学金’), August 30, 2017.↩︎

  153. Xinhua, “The PRC Consulate General in Istanbul Awards Scholarships to Turkish and Chinese University Students” (中国驻伊斯坦布尔总领馆向土中大学生颁发奖学金), May 10, 2019.↩︎

  154. Consulate General of the PRC in Istanbul, Turkey, “Consul General in Istanbul Holds Online Award Ceremony for the ‘Consul General’s Scholarship’” (驻伊斯坦布尔总领馆举行 ‘总领事助学金’ 线上颁奖仪式), May 21, 2020.↩︎

  155. Tsai Wen-Hsuan, “Enabling China’s Voice”; David Shambaugh, “China’s External Propaganda Work”; “Mark Stokes and Russell Hsiao,”The People’s Liberation Army“; Alex Joske,”The Party Speaks for You“; Zhao Taotao and James Leibold,”Ethnic Governance under Xi“; Ondřej Klimeš,”Advancing Ethnic Unity.”↩︎

  156. Anna Hayes, “Interwoven ’Destinies”; Michael Clarke, “Beijing’s Pivot West.”↩︎