Sultan shines in the court of the Dragon King

Sultan shines in the court of the Dragon King

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

July 10, 2019

The graphiSultan shines in the court of the Dragon Kingc image of Turkey pivoting away from NATO towards the Russia-China strategic partnership was provided, in more ways than one, by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing right after the G20 in Osaka.

Turkey is a key hub in the emerging New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative. Erdogan is a master at selling Turkey as the ultimate East-West crossroads. He has also expressed much interest in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led by Russia-China, whose annual summit took place in Bishkek a few days before Osaka.

In parallel, against hell and high water – from threats of sanctions by the US Congress to NATO warnings – Erdogan never budged from Ankara’s decision to buy Russian S-400 defense missile systems, a $2.5-billion contract according to Rostec’s Sergei Chemezov.

The S-400s start to be shipped to Turkey as early as this week. According to Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar, their deployment should start by October. Much to Washington’s ire, Turkey is the first NATO member state to buy S-400s.

Xi, as he welcomed Erdogan in Beijing, stressed the message he crafted together with Putin in their previous meetings in St Petersburg, Bishkek and Osaka: China and Turkey should “uphold a multilateral world order with the United Nations at its core, a system based on international law.”

Erdogan, for his part, turned up the charm – from publishing an op-ed in the Global Times extolling a common vision of the future to laying it out in some detail. His target is to consolidate Chinese investment in multiple areas in Turkey, directly or indirectly related to Belt and Road.

BEIJING, CHINA – JULY 02: President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) walk past the honor guards during an official welcoming ceremony at Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on July 02, 2019. Volkan Furuncu / Anadolu Agency

Addressing the extremely sensitive Uighur dossier head on, Erdogan deftly executed a pirouette. He eschewed accusations from his own Foreign Ministry that “torture and political brainwashing” were practiced in Uighur detention camps and would rather comment that Uighurs “live happily” in China. “It is a fact that the peoples of China’s Xinjiang region live happily in China’s development and prosperity. Turkey does not permit any person to incite disharmony in the Turkey-China relationship.”

This is even more startling considering that Erdogan himself, in the past decade, had accused Beijing of genocide. And in a famous 2015 case, hundreds of Uighurs about to be deported from Thailand back to China ended up, after much fanfare, being resettled in Turkey.

New geopolitical caravan

Erdogan seems to have finally realized that the New Silk Roads are the 2.0 digital version of the Ancient Silk Roads whose caravans linked the Middle Kingdom, via trade, to multiple lands of Islam – from Indonesia to Turkey and from Iran to Pakistan.

Before the 16th century, the main line of communication across Eurasia was not maritime, but the chain of steppes and deserts from Sahara to Mongolia, as Arnold Toynbee wonderfully observed. Walking the line we would find merchants, missionaries, travelers, scholars, all the way to Turko-Mongols from Central Asia migrating to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. They all formed the stuff of interconnection and cultural exchange between Europe and Asia – way beyond geographical discontinuity.

Arguably Erdogan is now able to read the new tea leaves. The Russia-China strategic partnership – directly involved in linking Belt and Road with the Eurasia Economic Union and also the International North-South Transportation Corridor – considers Turkey and Iran as absolutely indispensable key hubs for the ongoing, multi-layered Eurasia integration process.

A new Turkey-Iran-Qatar geopolitical and economic axis is slowly but surely evolving in Southwest Asia, ever more linked to Russia-China. The thrust is Eurasia integration, visible for instance via a frenzy of railroad building designed to link the New Silk Roads, and the Russia-Iran transportation corridor, to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea and, eastwards, the Iran-Pakistan corridor to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, one of Belt and Road’s highlights.

This is all being supported by interlocking transportation cooperation agreements involving Turkey-Iran-Qatar and Iran-Iraq-Syria.

The end result not only consolidates Iran as a key Belt and Road connectivity hub and China’s strategic partner, but also by contiguity Turkey – the bridge to Europe.

As Xinjiang is the key hub in Western China connecting to multiple Belt and Road corridors, Erdogan had to find a middle ground – in the process minimizing, to a great extent, waves of disinformation and Western-peddled Sinophobia. Applying Xi Jinping thought, one would say Erdogan opted for privileging cultural understanding and people-to-people exchanges over an ideological battle.

The flags of China and Turkey flutter in Beijing during Erdogan’s visit to China on July 2. Photo: Wang Xin/ ImagineChina / AFP

Ready to mediate

In conjunction with his success at the court of the Dragon King, Erdogan now feels emboldened enough to offer his services as mediator between Tehran and the Trump administration – picking up on a suggestion he made to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20.

Erdogan would not have made that offer if it had not been discussed previously with Russia and China – which, crucially, are member signatories of the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

It’s easy to see how Russia and China should consider Turkey the perfect mediator: a neighbor of Iran, the proverbial bridge between East and West, and a NATO member. Turkey is certainly much more representative than the EU-3 (France, UK, Germany).

Trump seems to want – or at least gives the impression of imposing – a JCPOA 2.0, without an Obama signature. The Russia-China partnership could easily call his bluff, after clearing it with Tehran, by offering a new negotiating table including Turkey. Even if the ineffective – in every sense – EU-3 remained, there would be real counterbalance in the form of Russia, China and Turkey.

Out of all these important moves in the geopolitical chessboard, one motivation stands out among top players: Eurasian integration cannot significantly progress without challenging the Trumpian sanction obsession.

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Xinjiang : The New Great Game

The world crossed a geopolitical watershed at the end of 2017. That was when the American Empire officially declared China its No.1 national-security threat, alongside Russia.

Since then, Washington has spared no effort to confront and contain China on multiple fronts. These include an intensifying trade war, bans on Chinese acquisitions of US assets, a witch-hunt against Chinese companies and individuals in America, military and political provocations in the South China Sea and relating to Taiwan, and whipping up Sinophobic activity among US allies (translation: vassals). And playing a key role in fanning and marketing these efforts, as usual, are the Western corporate media.

The latest such assault centers on Xinjiang’s sensitive Uighur issue. With the Empire’s support, Uighur radicals have in recent years stirred tensions in the Western Chinese region, even as foreign-trained Uighur militants staged high-profile terror attacks in various parts of the country. Chinese authorities’ efforts to defuse such tensions and combat the violence are being mendaciously depicted as systematic, large-scale repression of one of China’s biggest ethnic minorities.

The recent spate of Western media reports alleging brutal repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang marks a new phase of a propaganda drive to demonize China and destabilize its periphery. Highlighted by screaming headlines in Western corporate media are accounts of a million Uighur Muslims (or 2 in 5 Uighur male adults!) being interned in concentration camps and subject to torture, such as waterboarding. The suggestion or assertion is that Xinjiang has become an open-air prison (which actually reminds one of the real one operated by Washington’s ally Israel in Palestine).

That bald and barefaced accusation was made with nary a shred of supporting evidence by the lone American on an external committee (with no representation from UN officials) of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Western media such as Reuters went to town with the allegation, misrepresenting it as a charge levelled by OHCHR against China. An OHCHR spokesperson denied that the UN agency had made that finding and criticism against Beijing.To cover up the lie, Reuters cited reports issued by an anti-China, extreme right wing group based in Washington and funded by the American government and NGOs such as National Endowment for Democracy.

That’s not the first time allegations of Beijing’s repression of Uighur Muslims were made by western media . Previous provocative and unsubstantiated claims of Chinese authorities banning fasting by Uighurs during Ramadan had surfaced periodically. Furthermore, malicious and ludicrous lies that Uighur Muslims were forced by the government to eat pork and drink alcohol were making the rounds in Western press and social media last year.  In recent times, China-hating lies fabricated and spread by western corporate media have become more vile and venomous. The intent is to demonize China, incite hatred and instigate violence and even Jihad by Uighur militants in Xinjiang and Islamic State terrorists outside China.

It’s the third time in as many decades that the CIA has sought to dominate Central Asia (the Great Game), with Afghanistan as the core and other parts of Central Asia including Xinjiang in the Empire’s cross hairs.

The first attempt was in the 1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union but before the 9/11 cataclysm. The CIA worked hand in glove with the mujahideen in Afghanistan as well as Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. Boot camps were set up in Afghanistan to train Uighur separatists, in much the same way as Islamic State extremists were trained and armed to overthrow the Syrian government a decade later. CIA-instigated destabilization culminated in the bombing of three public buses in Urumqi in February 1997. Nine people died and more than 70 were injured. Chinese authorities swiftly put down the insurrection and stabilized the situation.

In 2007-08, Uighur separatists saw and seized a historic opening — the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing — to internationalize their cause. An attempted suicide bombing on a China Southern Airlines flight was thwarted. The terrorist attack in Kashgar in southern Xinjiang resulted in the death of 16 police officers four days before the start of the Games. In July 2009, riots by Uighur extremists in the provincial capital Urumqi caused the death of nearly 200 people, mostly Han Chinese. True to the imperial double standard, Washington didn’t consider and characterize such calamitous riots and other deadly attacks by Uighur militants as acts of terrorism.

The orgy of violence continued through to 2014. There were two more failed hijackings of commercial planes as well as scores of bombings, killing tens of civilians each time. The knife attack at the southwestern China city of Kunming railway station in March 2014 was a watershed, resulting in 31 dead and 141 injured.

Faced with such armed insurrections, many sovereign states would have imposed martial law or declared a state of emergency nationwide or in the affected region, suspending the rule of law. That was the case in southern Thailand and Indonesia’s Aceh province. Even peninsular Malaya’s British colonial rulers imposed emergency rule from 1945 to 1957 when confronted with a communist insurgency. And post-9/11, US authorities enacted a draconian security law (the Patriot Act) and implemented other measures that stripped away civil liberties in the name of anti-terrorism.

China has done nothing of that sort. It has stepped up security, including armed patrols and checkpoints in hot spots. The objective is clear and transparent: to restore law and order, and go after terrorists and prevent them from inflicting more violence. Chinese authorities describe their action as high-intensity regulation. The strategy has succeeded in containing the spread of terrorism beyond Xinjiang and purging religious extremists and separatists from the civil society. Beijing’s counter-terrorism efforts have been helped by Shanghai Cooperation Organization members like Kyrgyzstan, as well as President Erdogan of Turkey, who has stopped acting as the Empire’s proxy in Xinjiang by funnelling money and providing a secret corridor for Uighur terrorists to flee China.

Almost a decade after the Urumqi riots, China has turned its anti-terrorism focus to undoing the toxic brainwashing of ordinary Uighurs by extremists. Neighborhood religious institutes have been set up to educate citizens on the perils of religious extremism (these community centres where classes are held to detoxify radical Wahhabism were labelled “re-education camps” or concentration camps by the western press, and those attending the classes claimed to be “incarcerated”!) Programs to eradicate poverty are implemented to train and prepare Uighurs for jobs in towns and cities. Some 600,000 Uighurs were lifted out of poverty in 2016, and another 312,000 in 2017. More than 400,000 have been relocated from remote villages to places where they are gainfully employed.

The Chinese government, through various programs, has been winning the hearts and minds of ordinary Uighurs. That is bad news for the US Empire and the Uighur separatists. They are making a desperate, all-out bid to unravel the good work done by Beijing to eradicate religious extremism and poverty in Xinjiang. The deluge of fake news from Western corporate media since the beginning of this year seeks to demonize the Chinese government, painting it as a gross violator of human rights, when the truth is the exact opposite.

It would be funny if it wasn’t serious that Washington has taken up the cudgels against unproven abuses and repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang when the American Empire and its allies, under the guise of War on Terror and humanitarian intervention, have droned, bombed and killed millions of Muslim children, women and civilians in a dozen of countries from Afghanistan to Yemen, and displaced millions more.

By THOMAS HON WING POLIN – GERRY BROWN
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