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FOREIGN POLICY BRIDGE OVER THE BOSPHORUS
Turkey’s soft power successes
Turkey wants to expand its influence throughout its surrounding region, creating a peaceful, stable environment in which its economy can prosper.And as the country struggles internally to demilitarise and democratise, there is broad support at home for theAKP government’s bold aims abroad galerie maeght paul rebeyrolle – ‘The Hole’ (1970)
The Beijing model
Echoing what Mao Zedong said back in October 1949, his distant, and very different, successor, Hu Jintao, declared 60 years later: “China owes its place in the world today to the achievements of socialism.” A proud claim. It’s a long time since China was humiliated and carved up by Europe and Japan, and some of its people are prospering – but socialism, that’s a different story. The claim is so far from the truth that you can even argue that Chinese growth – 9.6% in 2008; 8.7% in 2009 – took over when the American machine broke down, helping the capitalist system weather the worst storm since 1929. Globalisation, wounded on Wall Street, recovered its strength in Shanghai.
The old claim that the wind from the east would prove stronger than that from the west meant something else back in the days when the sky was red. Not just that China would export more goods than any other country and become a goldmine for supermarket chains: Carrefour has 156 branches, Tesco 72, and the US giant Wal-Mart would not be where it is today without cheap Chinese labour to help it slash prices (and crush its competitors).
If these are the criteria by which world revolution is to be measured, western businessmen have nothing to worry about. The Wall Street Journal is licking its lips: “China remains a highly attractive market for western businesses in search of growth… it is the emerging markets which are leading the world out of recession” (1). The United Steelworkers union is not nearly so enthusiastic: it has called on Washington to bring an action against China for dumping…
But the Chinese model is not just an export machine running on cheap labour. The country is turning its attention to its domestic market and seeking to strengthen links with other regional economies. A trading area on the lines of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) or the European Union is now on the agenda and will, as usual, benefit the strongest sectors in the dominant country. China is set to become the second largest economy in the world this year, overtaking (far less populated) Japan, and, according to Goldman Sachs, to be number one by 2026.
How will China use its power? It showed no inclination at the G20 and Copenhagen summits to plead the cause of the poor or the countries of the global South. Its pattern of development is attractive, but mainly for those who seek to combine economic growth, free trade and stability with the power of a political-cumindustrial oligarchy (2). Western businessmen are among the strongest advocates of this “Beijing model”…
TRANSLATED BY BARBARA WILSON (1) Patience Wheatcroft, “Don’t begrudge China’s exports coup”, Wall Street Journal, New York, 12 January 2010. (2) In 2005, more than a third of private sector employers were members of the Chinese Communist Party.insidethisissueOverspentGreece:whatchance of success forEU reforms? Page 4 Blackwater: why hired soldiers have no interest in peace Page 6 Haiti’s new hell is no different from its past inherited misery Page 7 Maghreb: everything in common, nothing shared Page 10
BY WENDY KRISTIANASEN
Ahmet Davutoglu’s vision is wide. He wants peace and security for the wider region around Turkey and believes Ankara is well-placed as a member of the G20 and Nato to make it happen. He is the architect of Turkey’s new policy, which relies on zero problems with neighbours, and soft power. He was chief foreign policy adviser to the prime minister from the start of the Justice and Development (AK) Party government, which came to power in a landslide general election on 3 November 2002. In May 2009 he became foreign minister.
He says Turkey is well-poised to play a mediating role in various conflicts, with strong ties with different religious and ethnic groups where there are Turkish speakers. That means the Balkans, the Caucasus, Russia, Cyprus, the Middle East. His vision of security for all and peace means more than mediation; it means “high-level political dialogue, economic interdependency and a multicultural character”.
Davutoglu is not a politician, but an academic, and not even a member of parliament, so free of ties to constituents. And he has not just thought out an innovative foreign policy, he has implemented it. His achievements: “Sixty one agreements signed with Syria; 48 with Iraq; visa requirements lifted with eight neighbours; resolution of Lebanon’s problem with Syria [over presidential succession]; two protocols signed with Armenia.” He has also attempted mediation between Israel and the Palestinians. He conducted the talks between Syria and Israel in 2007-8: “We came close, not to peace, but to agreement; but then Israel’s attack on Gaza [in December 2008] put an end to all that work. Gaza wasn’t an issue in our negotiations but it was a negative context... When Israel has a
Wendy Kristianasen is editorial director of Le Monde diplomatique’s English edition
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vision of peace we will be ready to listen: this is an issue of principle.”
This new foreign policy has won widespread popular support among a population divided internally by unresolved questions of identity: secular Turks worry about Islamisation and resent AKP patronage that excludes them (especially in the state sector).
At the same time, this is a crucial moment as Turkey sends its military back to the barracks and exposes the dark secrets of its “deep state” – in particular shadowy elements within the military (which toppled four governments between 1960 and 1998) that are accused, inter alia, of coup attempts against the AKP government. These include a plot to assassinate the deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, on 19 December 2009. The findings promise for the first time to “touch the untouchables” within the army (1). This has been happening within the framework of the ongoing Ergenekon trial. In January a flood of media revelations provided yet greater details of coup attempts (including a document exposing the so-called Balyoz or Sledgehammer operation) (2).
there’s a new dynamic
As the shades are lifted from Turkey’s recent history, and the country demilitarises, the way is now open to real democratisation. Much needs to be done, including constitutional and other reform (not least to allow the military to be prosecuted in civilian courts). But the pace of change is undeniable; new elites are emerging, with a growing, vibrant middle class (even if disparity in income levels has widened). The energy is echoed abroad. Rising above a core divide over identity and internal direction, Turks can agree on a foreign policy that is coherent and promises economic gain and security, and expresses a clear sense of how Turkey sees itself in the world.
As Ihsan Bal, professor at the Police Academy, pointed out: “There’s a new dynamic, and it’s driven by the people. The West is missing that point.” It started in 2003, when the US had wanted to use Turkey as a front for its invasion of Iraq. “And it was the people – the MPs and their constituents – who said no.”
You would expect Turks to worry about the effects of the global financial crisis, and
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