By Mohammad Mazhari

U.S. has awakened the sleeping dragon: researcher

August 1, 2022 - 15:55

TEHRAN –Nurettin Akcay, the guest researcher at Shanghai University, argues Washington has awakened the Chinese dragon with its wrong policies.

“The USA has awakened the sleeping dragon with its wrong strategies,” Akcay tells the Tehran Times. 
The Turkish researcher believes that President Xi Jinping, “unlike his status quo successors, made China a revisionist power and created an area of influence in many regions thanks to its enormous economic power.”
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you evaluate the weight of China as an Eastern superpower that has challenged the U.S.?

A: The world has stepped into a new U.S.-China bipolar international system. While the United States has long identified Beijing as the biggest competitor, it will probably take more aggressive measures against China's threat in the coming period. However, the USA has awakened the sleeping dragon with its wrong strategies. The attempt to integrate China into the world to create a more open society has made China an economic giant, making it a formidable competitor to the U.S. rather than an open community. In particular, Xi Jinping, unlike his status quo successors, made China a revisionist power and created an area of influence in many regions thanks to its enormous economic power.

“In The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brzezinski said, ‘The most dangerous scenario for America would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an 'antihegemonic' coalition united not by ideology but by complementary grievances.” Although the USA realized its mistake, it was slightly late, and now it seems that stopping China is not so easy. Because, as opposed to popular belief, it is not easy to deal with a China that is so integrated into the international system and has become the most significant economic partner of almost every country. Moreover, it is necessary to know that the USA lacks a comprehensive China strategy, despite some attempts made. Particularly, Biden's weak human rights rhetoric towards China and his improbable containment strategy seem to have had no significant impact on Beijing. Also, China is getting stronger in many regions where the USA has retreated due to its Asia-Pacific strategy. And we have to know that China is a power that exploits the liberal international system and aims to grow gingerly within the system.

It is a power that learns from its own mistakes and the mistakes of previous administrations like the USSR. It has also become a power that attaches importance to technology, education, and the military as much as it gives priority to the economy. And, the way things are going, the eroded hegemonic power of the USA will be corroded even more, and taking action against China will become impossible beyond difficulty.

Q: Do you think China, Russia, and Iran can form a bloc to curb U.S. influence in Asia? What will be Turkey's position in such a confrontation?

A: In The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brzezinski said, "The most dangerous scenario for America would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an 'antihegemonic' coalition united not by ideology but by complementary grievances." This would be a really bad scenario for the U.S. but realities on the field are not as simple as this one. Such a bloc between these three powers doesn't reflect the realities. The relationship between these countries is only humble trilateral cooperation. Despite some commonalities among these three toward the current international order and American hegemony, China has different approaches and interests related to the global system. China wants a new world order that will ensure a long-term stable and peaceful international environment, but at the same time, it doesn't want any radical change. China aims to continue to be coherent and consistent with the international order. Therefore, I consider that such an antihegemonic coalition is just illusory. Consequently, we can never see an anti-U.S. bloc in Asia. But certainly, these three powers will cooperate coherently. In addition, China's probability of such a confrontation is very low for now. Everyone wants to give China such a role, but I think China has no power to be entangled in new fronts that will be able to create problems in the long run. 
As for Turkey, although Ankara has pursued a harmonious policy with Russia and China in recent years, it still has strong ties with NATO. In such a confrontation, Turkey cannot easily set against the USA.

Q: How could Turkey establish a balance in its ties with both China and America?

“It (China) has also become a power that attaches importance to technology, education and the military as much as it gives priority to the economy.”A: Turkey has not openly taken a front against both sides at the moment. Especially after 2016, Turkey developed very intimate relations with China, and much significant economic cooperation were carried out between the two countries. In addition, Turkey has strategic importance in China's Belt and Road. In fact, Turkey was not a country with considerable weight in China's foreign policy. However, Turkey has become an increasingly important country for China in recent years as a confrontation between the USA and China has become inevitable. On the other hand, there are structural problems between China and Turkey, such as the Uyghur problem, which cannot be easily overcome. Therefore, although Turkey has developed good relations with China, this will proceed extremely sensitively. In addition, the possibility of a stable relationship between the two countries seems very weak. It seems that it is the best option for Turkey not to make a clear choice between the two powers. Turkey should go its own way. Neither should it follow China nor should it simply run after the U.S.

Q: How may the Ukraine war and the dispute over Taiwan change the regional orders? Do you expect any change in regional balances?

A: The system established after WW II is in a rapid disintegration process. Many countries seek their orbit and hope to develop a proper international order. The Ukraine war and the Taiwan dispute are the issues that will accelerate this process. Especially, Taiwan is very likely to merge with the mainland. Chinese are almost sure that Taiwan will be merged with the mainland by 2030. China intends to end this dispute by peaceful means or war. A possible conflict in Taiwan and sanctions applied to China may put the world into a terrible process. Such a conflict in the world's production center could drag many regions into an economic disaster. It is tough to predict the consequences of this.  

Q: How do you assess Iran-Turkey ties as two regional powers? Despite differences, there are deep ties between two countries, as we see in the Astana process.

A: Turkey and Iran are two countries that are so close yet so far. These two countries have close ties due to their shared past but have become each other's biggest rivals due to their shared history and geography. Unfortunately, this competition seems to continue for many years. Turkey wants to bypass the South Corridor of the BRI where Iran is located and make the Middle Corridor more active. In addition, the Zengezur corridor is a move that can bring Yerevan closer to Ankara and create an uninterrupted connection between the geography of Turkestan and Ankara. This is not in line with Iran's interests. On the other hand, the two states have opposing policies in Syria, and the rapprochement between Ankara and Israel makes Iran quite uncomfortable. Considering all these, there does not seem to be any possibility of rapprochement between Iran and Turkey shortly.

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