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China–Turkey Relations from the Perspective of Neoclassical Realism

Mustafa Cüneyt Özşahin, Federico Donelli and Riccardo Gasco


There is plenty of studies focusing on China’s global outreach through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In tandem with this, the extensive literature on China depicts it as the next hegemon to succeed in the USA. Along this line, flourishing ties with various Asian nations, including the Middle Eastern countries, as a result of China’s recent foreign policy activism has been addressed extensively. While most research has been stressing the rising assertiveness of China in world politics, only a limited number of studies have touched upon the responses from middle or small powers against China’s ascent. Drawing from neoclassical realism, this article contends two levels of analysis for delineating the interaction between Turkey, a middle power, and China, a rising great power. First, the exchange between Turkey and the USA is vital in determining the cordial relations between Turkey and China. Alteration in the American policy vis-à-vis Turkey in the wake of the Arab Spring is relevant to Turkey’s growing relations with China. Second, is the rising anti-Westernism of foreign policy elites as part of the alteration in the strategic culture of Turkish politics, which makes Turkey’s rapprochement with China possible. Nevertheless, it should be noted that these two levels are intertwined and feed each other. Consequently, employing a neoclassical realist approach, the article argues that the middle powers’ stance against a rising hegemon is conditional upon the bilateral relations with the current hegemon and peculiarities of domestic politics.

Keywords: Turkey, China, Belt and Road Initiative, neoclassical realism, strategic culture, AKP

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pp. 218–239.