Indexed in: KCI, ESCI, SCOPUS
search for


From Traditional to Non-Traditional Security: Assessing Security Interdependence in Türkiye-China Relations
The Korean Journal of International Studies 22-1 (April 2024), 1-25
Published online April 30, 2024
© 2024 The Korean Association of International Studies.

Imran Ali Sandano  [Bio-Data]
Received February 8, 2024; Revised March 23, 2024; Accepted March 29, 2024.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
This study aims to explain the newly found momentum between Türkiye and China on nontraditional security (NTS) cooperation over the course of the past decade. This new understanding is based on security interdependence between the two. The changing nature of international security and emergence of NTS issues has gotten prominent attention in international relations. While a notion of security interdependence is to explore interdependent relationships on NTS issues which have become increasingly significant. The significance of NTS cooperation is that, it avoids paranoid traditional hostilities and discovers common ground for cooperation, which actually neglects traditional diplomatic approaches. Türkiye-China, serves as the core case study to illustrate the implications of the theoretical debate on security interdependence. Both nations are facing plenty of NTS challenges, but this has taken three key challenges like, economic security, anti-terrorism cooperation, and energy security cooperation, as empirical evidence which proves their positive impact of their traditional cooperation. The study has applied qualitative research methods for a deeper understanding of the notion of security interdependent. This article argues that the Türkiye-China partnership is based on ‘security interdependence’ and embodies an important momentum that goes beyond a traditional bilateral partnership.
Keywords : security interdependence, nontraditional security, diplomacy, Türkiye, China

The changing nature of international security and relations has brought a new wave of understanding of relationships. It seems that globalisation and interdependence are losing their core principles. It has even been doubted the guarantee of interdependent relationships. This study engages with the debates among international relations and security theories regarding ‘security interdependence’, using the case of Türkiye and China to build the arguments in the contemporary environment of non-traditional security challenges. Complex interdependence remained the most developed approach in mainstream debate; hence, is not the most appropriate model to describe the transformation of international security and relations. Therefore, the case study of Türkiye and China relations provides a new indication for developing mainstream debates. This study focuses on the three specific research questions that will lead the debates: what point should we re-examine complex interdependence and establish a notion of security interdependence? And, what will be the implications and how can a case study of Türkiye and China relations develop good bilateral ties based on security interdependence?

I argue that interdependence exists with new variations which need to be specified, and, in line with this, I propose the concept of security interdependence with a unique formation of new security challenges. No doubt, globalisation is facing equate challenges, but the emergence of shared globalisation is attracting security interdependence (Sandano et al. 2019). This new concept is relevant because it demonstrates that interdependence is the need of the day with the changing nature of international security and relations.

The changing nature of international security has been explained in different ways and methods within the international security and relations discipline. The names of Keohane and Nye were at the highest level because they offered a new theoretical framework of ‘complex interdependence’ (Keohane and Nye, 2012). In spite of that fact, this has brought different thinking in international relations but could create much difference, we need to re-examine it, given the new security challenges like NTS in the contemporary world. Complex interdependence exists in certain circumstances but cannot be regarded as the only type of interdependence. Neither is it the most applicable framework to examine the NTS issues – environmental degradation, energy crisis, financial crisis, pandemic diseases, drugs trafficking, illegal migration, natural disaster, cyber security, maritime piracy, money laundering, terrorism, and extremism – have enhanced the interdependency. Therefore, security interdependence is coined, herein, as a notion capable of strengthening the arguments international security and relations, especially in NTS cooperation. It also presents a new academic understanding within of the predominant traditional security research.

As empirical evidence, this study uses the case of Türkiye and China relations to demonstrate the effects of the theoretical discussion using both of the concepts, complex interdependence and security interdependence. Türkiye and China have long shared and distinctive historical background. Undoubtedly, historical perceptions and facts affected their bilateral relations. The international system in the 21st century has become more interdependent, to a certain extent, where mutual ties have been more intensified and diversified. The formal diplomatic ties between the two states were established in 1971, but could not improve much, due to their diverse political understandings, and positions in the Cold War era. Türkiye and China were alienated for many years because of Ankara’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and it was part of the alliance that battled against Beijing in the Korean War (Lavi and Lindenstrauss, 2016). After the Cold War period, the dimensions of international security changed and it has rapidly transformed the bilateral relations between the two countries. Now, both nations have become more interconnected and interdependent.

There is a lot of literature on Turkish-Chinese relations with different approaches. As Rosenau (2003) proposes, the acceptance of empirical and normative uncertainties makes international relations incredible for parsimonious theories while disregarding the recommendations of complexity theory. He believes that complexity theory to international relations is the most valuable contribution which encourages different ways of thinking about connectivity between states (Rosenau, 2003). It actually denotes that after the 2000s, the international system would be considered as a ‘complex system’ and the case of Türkiye and China relations would be taken as distinctive in complex international systems. It is truly representing a framework of security interdependence and mutual cooperation on NTS issues of both states in the last two decades.

Before moving to discussion on security interdependence between Türkiye and China, if we take a brief overview through the three main paradigms, realism, liberalism, and constructivism, we find that for realists mainly focus on the asymmetry of power between the two countries. China is the second largest economy in the world, while Türkiye is a growing economy. Türkiye is far away from Chinese capabilities in military, political, and diplomatic matters. For realists, asymmetry of power confines the scale and possibilities of competitiveness between the two states (Yalvaç, 2014; Qin, 2011).

According to the liberal approach, this world is having multidimensional and complex interdependence (Öniş and Yalikun, 2021; Chu, 2021). It is because of economic interdependence which involves transnational production, trade, and financial flow. This approach would be one of the options to improve or strengthen Türkiye and China’s relations. In spite of the growing trade volume, one can argue that there is no substantial interdependence between the two states. It is even important to understand that, interdependence is based on an asymmetric dynamic which involves unequal parties (Atlı, 2016). No doubt, China is one of the largest trade partners of Türkiye, but the latter has a lesser position.

Constructivists believe that Türkiye and China relations depend on two parameters, first trade and investment, and second, the perception of Turks and Chinese ideas, national, ethnic, and cultural identities, and the global order (Bozdaglioglu, 2004; Uemura, 2015). It is very hard to understand how the Turks and the Chinese think about each other. However, the shortage of knowledge and misperceptions about each other would easily lead to prejudices, which would be a very bad factor for good bilateral relations between the two nations. These all three main paradigms have their own understandings, but with time, security has transformed, and tested differently.

Non-traditional security (NTS) refers to security threats that encompass beyond the conventional military and state-centric notion of security. NTS threats are contrary to traditional security concerns. Generally, NTS dealt as a complementary concept of human security (Paris, 2001). As we know that traditional security policies and practices were limited to protecting sovereignty and countering threats of survival, mainly posed by direct engagement with other state(s). It gave more emphasis to spending more on military capabilities. Türkiye and China are facing inter-state security threats, especially in different hot spotted areas, but the growing and widespread series of transnational nontraditional security threats are alarming. China is dealing with these NTS issues under the umbrella of ‘nontraditional security policy’ while Türkiye has started to counter with ‘human security’, which is a people-centric approach to international security studies. It should be noted that ‘nontraditional security’ remained out from mainstream of Western security studies, they used to emphasize ‘human security’ and Türkiye mostly followed Western trends.

Nontraditional security challenges have given a new shape to security understanding which is proposed as ‘security interdependence’ where all affected states can cooperate beyond their borders. Türkiye and China are having different geographical locations, but the platform of nontraditional security seems more common for developing strong bilateral relations, especially to counter common NTS challenges like, terrorism, energy security, and economic security. Apart from nontraditional security cooperation, traditional security cooperation is also being carried out between the two countries.

The durable diplomatic relations between Türkiye and China largely depend on their NTS cooperation. The standardized NTS cooperation between the two countries was initiated by Chinese authorities. At the start, Ankara and Beijing agreed on common goals, which were territorial integrity and national unity (Isik and Zou, 2019). Both states agreed to resist NTS challenges like, terrorism, religious extremism and ethnic separatism. Later, economic, and energy cooperation included, and the relationship between the two countries became closer. Furthermore, the two countries are exchanging ideas on trade, technology, education, culture, media, and transportation while Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has opened new channels for both nations to reach the highest level of NTS cooperation.

This study aims to focus on security interdependence with the specific NTS challenges – terrorism, energy security, and economic security – between Türkiye and China. The choice of these selected NTS challenges in Türkiye-China security interdependence is, thus, a good fit. It will simplify comprehensive discussions of security interdependence. I argue that this case study is appropriately connecting with the research questions and empirically shows the operationalisation of a novel notion of security interdependence for strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.


According to Keohane and Nye (2012) interdependence is an extensive phenomenon which develops an understanding of complex interdependence. It is even considered an alternative to realist notions. The views of both authors have become outmoded after the start of the anti-globalisation movement from West and the change into the nature of contemporary international security. I argue that complex interdependence explored interdependent relationships well, but it ended up with a certain phase, for now. The current phase of international security needs to be theorized in a better and detailed way. Therefore, this study will look up the present definitions of interdependence and propose a new alternative in the shape of security interdependence with assumptions.

Keohane and Nye (2012, 11) draw attention to the imbalance in interdependence as an inception of power. It is very interesting that they believe that ‘the vulnerability dimension of interdependence’ is recognized to consider ‘what the situation would be if the framework of policies could be changed’ (11). In this way, the concept of vulnerability only appeals to players who are involved in an interdependent tie, but not to interdependence itself. As they have mentioned in one example that ‘if there are two states, each importing 35% per cent of their petroleum needs, the state that cannot shift to domestic sources at moderate cost is more vulnerable’ (11). It could be concluded that their emphasis is not on actual interdependent dealings.

Actually, Keohane and Nye (2012) proposed complex interdependence has three key characteristics; first being multiple channels, which allow trans-governmental relations with non-governmental in all methods. Second, the absence of a hierarchy between issues creates an agenda that is uniform, overlapping, and diverse. Third, the small role of military force, which ignores emerging geopolitical crises, in which military force would be used as a threat. Complex interdependence is very much complexed because of its multi-layered issues and channels. I believe that except multiple channels character, complex interdependence has become out-dated and both Keohane and Nye (1987, 737) have acknowledged that ‘precisely because we insisted that complex interdependence is an ideal type rather than an accurate description of world politics, its relevance to contemporary world politics is ambiguous’ (737). Herein, I argue that complex interdependence needs to be revised with the emergence of new NTS challenges which have become common threats to all.

It is time to reconsider the notion of complex interdependence. In this regard, Van Bergeijk (2019) argues that ‘we live in the times of Trumpism, Brexistism, and de-globalisation, while the turning point of globalisation in major economies appears to have occurred around the start of the Great Recession’ (1–2). Similarly, Diamond (2019) conceptualises it as ‘the great globalisation disruption’ (1). Moreover, prior expansion of globalisation reached its peak but could not sustain it. Hence, the significance of complex interdependence is subject to contention.

Definition of Interdependence

In past research, interdependence has been discussed mostly from the perspective of the international economy (Barbieri, 1996). Waltz (1970) argues that, interdependence may be measured as ‘economically more interesting’ but ‘politically less important.’ While, Kroll (1993, 321-322) believes that ‘the two states become more interdependent when events that take place within one state have an impact upon events taking place in another state’ (321-322). There are many definitions of interdependence from different scholars. As this study contests the understanding of Keohane and Nye (2012), on both characteristics and definition which seems problematic. According to Keohane and Nye (2012, 7), dependence means ‘a state of being determined or significantly affected by external forces’ (7). In the same way, Rosecrance et al. (1977, 426–427) describe interdependence as ‘the direct and positive linkage of the interests of states such that when the position of one state changes, the position of others is affected, and in the same direction’ (426–427).

Baldwin (1980, 1980) does not agree with the definition of Keohane and Nye, he argues that dependence does not mean ‘a state of being significantly affected by external forces’, but, instead, dependence denotes ‘a relationship of subordination in which one thing is supported by something else or must rely upon something else for fulfilment of a need’ (490). Baldwin’s interpretation is also indorsed by Caporaso (1978, 19). He submits that ‘the term dependence is used in the familiar, common sense manner to connote reliance on others’ (19). I believe that Baldwin and Caporaso understanding is no more applicable in the current security environment.

Security Interdependence: A Comprehensive Framework

In the existing literature, the conceptualizations of security interdependence exist as Verhoeven (2018) emphasizes on security interdependence on the geographical and regional grounds. He believes that the petrodollar boom and the demise of the Cold War are the two main fundamental transformations of security interdependence for regional integration in the Gulf and the Horn (Verhoeven, 2018). Ayres and Macdonald (2012) have also discussed security interdependence in the North American region, especially in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. This work provides theoretically innovative and rich empirical reflections on current security challenges like, labour, energy, immigration, environment, borders, women's and civil society struggles, and quality of citizenship. Both studies assess whether the future will hold greater security interdependence and enhance regional and bilateral relationships.

After presenting existing literature and discussing all the above mentioned definitions, I describe interdependence as a combination of common interests where each party would get sustainable benefits. It is even based on mutual and collective dependency in which each side depends on each other due to common threat(s) – what I call non-traditional security threats. This explanation involves all the states and actors even having good or bad relations. In the current scenario, NTS has provided an open platform for conflicting and non-conflicting states to cooperative with each other. Because, security interdependence has developed an understanding of ‘my security - is your security’, which means if state A is secure from NTS issues, it will definitely bring positive impact on state B. If state A is not getting positive results, B needs to cooperate for mutual and common interest. Environmental degradation and the COVID-19 pandemic are the best examples of this. Security interdependence is not about cost and benefit, but it is all about shared future and common threats.

The theoretical framework of security interdependence can be developed on the bases of this definition. As a counter argument to complex interdependence, security interdependence has four main assumptions:

First, security interdependence draws the new diplomatic characteristics to deal with all diverse NTS issues. It asserts that state(s) is no longer a single entity of security because the dynamics of security have been changed. All the changed characteristics are interdependent and may be considered as new entities, like communities, individuals, non-state actors, NGOs, groups and NTS issues. These entities have opened a new debate for policy makers to reconsider their security policies. Particularly, when the two countries are not having good diplomatic relations or having traditional enmity and facing similar NTS issues, is the clear sign of security interdependence.

Security interdependence is a good option for any conflicting and non-conflicting state to initiate cooperation (Heal and Kunreuther, 2004). In this context, NTS cooperation may play an important role in developing mutual or collective interest in security interdependence, against common issues – NTS issues. The security interdependence approach illustrates the interconnectedness of NTS cooperation. This perspective makes it clear that achieving NTS security would directly benefit mutual or collective interests against a common threat. While complex interdependence is only based on traditional diplomatic dealings which targets national interest or benefits.

Security interdependence is actually based on common issues/threats, which need constant understanding and mutual or collective interest. It is also true that, diplomats always remain in search of achieving interests even beyond the traditional rules of diplomacy. The collective or mutual interests on NTS issues have built its own features of interest to establish long standing security cooperation. This practice encourages policymakers and diplomats to promise more cooperation on NTS issues. Indeed, security interdependence provides a good interdependent understanding for developing more mutual interest.

Second, security interdependence accepts that interdependence is a general phenomenon, but for complex interdependence it is rare. In the current international system, dealing NTS issues single handed and get complete results, seems impossible and rare. All the governmental and non-governmental actors must depend on each other for common interest. The intensity of dependence would be low or high, but if any actor dealing with NTS issues single handedly it will definitely give benefit to neighbouring state, but may not create huge difference. It means that interdependence has become a key feature of the current international system where states need to cooperate.

The complex interdependence needs developed and mature relations for stable practice of interdependency. It actually works between strategic partners and allies for getting more strategic trust. However, in security interdependence, it is not a strategic matter between states but it is a game of collective survival.

Third, security interdependence recognises the importance of economic element, but, beside economic interdependence, states have long range of other NTS challenges like: environmental degradation, energy crisis, pandemic diseases, drugs trafficking, illegal migration, natural disaster, cyber security, maritime piracy, terrorism and extremism, money laundering, transnational crimes, and nuclear proliferation. Baldwin (1980, 503–504) is also of this same opinion that ‘states may be simultaneously dependent on each other with respect to cultural enrichment, military security, tariff levels, standard of living, or recreation’ (503–504). This may be related to the issue of the state’s ontological insecurity concerns based on NTS issues, for which states are not that much prepared. For instance, Nordin and Smith (2018, 371) draw attention to the needs of actors who ‘become with others, to share and shape a world with others, which is the central question of (seeking) friendship’ (371). While Giddens (1984, 50) argues that it reflects actors’ profound needs to ‘gain ontological security, or a stable sense of self’ (50). In certain extend these needs also important for states relationship which should be taken into consideration of conceptualisation of interdependence.

Finally, security interdependence claims that states need an interconnected and hierarchical method, which decides the mode of interdependence. Each NTS issues have their level to deal with, as in case of India and Pakistan, they may not be negotiating on extremism and terrorism but they can manage to talk on cyber security and environmental degradation. In the case of United States and China, they are not ready to talk on cyber security and environment degradation, but can manage to talk on economy and transnational crimes. States need to make the hierarchical order for their NTS issues cooperation. It suggests that states have to cooperate with each other according to their situation, which will develop more interdependence.

In this way, security interdependence fixes a distance from the notion of complex interdependence. Basically, the previous describes a situation where two or more than two states rely on each other for only purposeful needs, while it is not for genuine or reliable relations. It creates options for unstable interdependent relationships. Therefore, security interdependence has been proposed for states to keep developing interdependency for common threats, which is a need of current settings.

After developing the rational arguments, I will apply the implications of this debate in the case of Türkiye and China relations.


In the changing global security environment, the security agenda has been broadened dramatically. Traditional security policies and practices were limited to protecting sovereignty and countering threats of survival, mainly posed by direct engagement with other state(s). It gave more emphasis to spending more on military capabilities. Türkiye and China are facing inter-state security threats, especially in different hot spotted areas, but the growing and widespread series of transnational nontraditional security threats are alarming. China is dealing with these NTS issues under the umbrella of ‘nontraditional security policy’ while Türkiye has started to counter with ‘human security’, which is a people-centric approach to international security studies. It should be noted that ‘nontraditional security’ remained out from mainstream of Western security studies, they used to emphasize ‘human security’ and Türkiye mostly followed Western trends.

Türkiye and China have a long history of tension between the two countries on the subject of China’s treatment of the Uyghurs minority (a minority of Turkic origin), Muslims living in the Xinjiang region of China (Lavi and Lindenstrauss, 2016). But, emerging non-traditional security issues have opened a new front for both states to tackle. These issues have compelled both nations to open doors for security interdependence. It would be better to assume that NTS issues are more addressable than traditional issues, because these issues have become more dependent for both nations. NTS issues are reexamining the conventional molds of diplomacy and security, whereas it pursues bilateral, regional and global cooperation under the umbrella of security interdependence (Thakur and Newman, 2004).

Although, the role of NTS in the foreign policy of Türkiye and China is still not at the top in comparison with traditional security issues, but changing nature of security and interdependence has provided a new platform for both nations to form new connectivity. In this context, Ali Abdullah Wibisono (2017) believes that NTS is influencing Chinese diplomacy. Ankara and Beijing are trying to involve in such cooperation, which is consistent for economic and political goals. It is also representing President Xi Jinping’s doctrine of NTS cooperation under the directions of Belt and Road Initiative for ‘community of a shared future for mankind.’ Thus, it is necessary to examine Türkiye and China relations in their mutual interest of NTS cooperation.

Certainly, security interdependence provides strong justification for Türkiye and China to improve their bilateral relations. Both nations are very important in the changing international political system (Öniş and Yalikun, 2021). In this context, the two nations are cooperating with each other, especially in the fields of counter-terrorism, energy security, and economic security. The selection of only particular NTS issues for cooperation and ignoring all other NTS issues are part hierarchical method of security interdependence with intensity which have received more attention from Türkiye and China. And, these three areas of NTS cooperation are also taken as empirical evidence of security interdependence between Ankara and Beijing.

The main reason for selecting economic security, anti-terrorism cooperation, and energy security is the strategic importance and mutual benefits associated with these NTS areas. However, the reason for neglecting other NTS issues is the differing priorities, resource limitations, political attention, and complexity of the issues. It is not an issue between Türkiye and China, but generally, the dynamics of non-traditional security are constantly evolving. Some NTS issues would occupy the top priority, while others may not receive the same level of attention. However, as time progresses, the importance of all NTS issues will be bound to garner growing attention. Recognition and cooperation on any NTS issues between Türkiye and China is signifying the security interdependence.

Counter-Terrorism Cooperation

The cooperation between Türkiye and China in counter-terrorism under the framework of security interdependence establishes an emerging inclination towards addressing NTS concerns through joint efforts. Security interdependence pertains to strong relationships on the NTS issues in the contemporary security discourse. This approach actually highlights the importance of collaboration in tackling common security issues like terrorism. It is shifting traditional security momentum towards a more cooperative and mutually beneficial position.

In the realm of counter-terrorism cooperation between Türkiye and China, the understanding of security interdependence highlights the imperative for both nations to take part in addressing the issue of terrorism. Recognizing the interrelatedness of security concerns and the significance of collaborative efforts, Türkiye and China have the potential to exceed traditional diplomatic obstacles and form shared objectives for cooperation. By assuming this collaborative strategy, they would be able to combine their resources, exchange information, and synchronize their actions in order to counter terrorism.

TürkiyeCounter-terrorism cooperation is one of the important elements of Ankara and Beijing relations, and their political trust. China identifies four domestic terrorist organisations in which Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is one of the dangerous among the all organisations (Gunaratna et al. 2010). While, Türkiye declares Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as one of the most powerful domestic terrorist organisations in the country (Schoon, 2015). The two countries have assured each other of respecting territorial integrity and strong support in the fight against terrorism.

As earlier mentioned, the main drawback in Türkiye-China relations concerns the Uyghur minority, who want to establish an independent state ‘East Turkestan’ in China. The Uyghurs have a majority in the Muslim population of Xinjiang region. This dispute has a long history, but it is believed that China blames Uyghurs for several terrorist activities, and harasses them with constant detentions and many restrictions (Maizland, 2022). While, Uyghurs accuse that, Chinese government is trying to ‘sinofication’ the region (Keskin and Chen, 2021). No doubt, for many years Uyghur activists have built save heaven in Türkiye, where they have a sound historical and ethnic connectivity.

China and Türkiye have always remained very serious on the Uyghur minority issue. Before, the issue had been repressed, which made the problem even more sensitive, and directly affected trust between the two countries. After 9/11, war against terrorism also brought a new momentum of fight against extremist and separatist movements. In this regard, China showed more common interests with Türkiye in combating separatists and terrorists. However, Türkiye is of the view that Uyghur immigrants are one of the most important channels between the two states to communicate.

Previously, China had shown its severe concerns about an ambiguous Turkish policy in support of Uyghur. China blames that Uyghurs cross the Chinese border and enter easily into Türkiye to join international terrorist groups (Global Times, December 15, 2015). Although it is not clear how many of Uyghurs have joined international terrorist groups, but China worries that when these trained terrorists return to Xinjiang they will create more problems and damage the image of the country (Lavi and Lindenstrauss, 2016).

Some social and human rights activists and political parties in Türkiye are very concerned about Uyghur minority and Chinese policies in the region (Yitzhak, 2009). One of the key problems is misleading or fake news from leading media platforms of Türkiye and lack of direct communication with Uyghurs. Some Turkish nationalists and Islamists believe that the Uyghurs separatists are prejudiced, they do not have realisation that some of them may had took part in the jihadist training. The Turkish government has recognised that radical Salafism and Wahhabism is potential threat to the Islamic world (Isik and Zou, 2019).

China believes that the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement has posed a threat to its national security, unity and solidarity because this organisation has attempted many terrorist attacks on China and carried out various international defamation activities against Beijing (ETIM is a big threat, July 16, 2021). These activities are damaging the national image of China in the international community. With this intention, China hopes to get support from Türkiye to curb ETIM and create more impact on terrorism and ethnic separatists in Central Asia (Isik and Zou, 2019).

No doubt, Ankara has vast experience in counter terrorism because it has remained engaged in dealing with domestic separatist movements and its geographical closeness to Central Asia and the Middle East. As a victim of terrorism, Türkiye has come up with a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy, which has been carried out numerous counter-terrorism measures inside and outside of the country. Türkiye has remained one of the most important players in global counter-terrorism movements. It firmly endorses the UN-established legal systems. It is a good opportunity for China to become a partner of such a country which is very rich in counter-terrorism experience.

According to estimation 50,000 Chinese Uyghurs are living in Türkiye (Global Voices, September 24, 2021). They claim that they fled Xinjiang because of Beijing’s orchestrated pauperisation of their basic human rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of communicating in their native languages. The Uyghur issue was commonly comprehended by many Turkish political parties until the early 2010s. In 2009, then prime minister, Tayyip Erdoğan also criticized China and defined the situation in Xinjiang as ‘genocide’ which embarrassed China internationally (BBC, February 16, 2009).

It is believed that, after 2015, Turkish policy toward Uyghurs has been changed with the shift away from its traditional ally NATO to China and Russia (Foreign Policy, March 2, 2021). Most of the Uyghurs have found it much difficult to get citizenship or resident permits in Türkiye. China has ratified an extradition treaty with Türkiye intended to strengthen legal collaboration to assist on terrorists and transnational criminals. On his visit to Beijing, President Erdoğan signed the extradition treaty in 2017 (Wani, 2021). Though, the Turkish Parliament has not yet ratified it. If Ankara is ratifying the extradition treaty, it will create a destructive effect on Uyghur migrants living in Türkiye; because they cannot make a way of living but risk being jailed if they return to Xinjiang, while Beijing has rejected to renew the passports of Uyghurs (Amnesty International, 2021).

During the visit of China in 2017, Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, the two countries passed significant changes in counter-terrorism cooperation. Turkish Foreign Minister categorically stated that ‘We will never allow any activities against China in Türkiye.’ It clearly shows that Türkiye will aggressively destroy all kinds of anti-China activities inside the state and come up with friendly and long-term relations between the two countries. However, Türkiye has recognized the ‘East Turkistan Islamic Movement’ as a terrorist organisation, and promised that Ankara will stand with China in combating the ETIM (Isik and Zou, 2019). Türkiye and China are cooperating with the intention of preventing extremist thoughts from penetrating into the two countries.

The importance of NTS cooperation resides in its ability to develop trust, establish partnerships, and promote stability by addressing common security issues through collective initiatives. By operationalizing security interdependence and listing cooperation over confrontation, Türkiye and China would cross complex security landscapes, mitigate challenges posed by terrorism, and make contributions to a more stable and secure world. Security interdependence not only improves their individual security capabilities but also supports the broader framework of regional and global counter-terrorism cooperation.

Economic Security Cooperation

Economic security is one of the important elements of any nation around the world. The interconnectivity of the world economy has become a very crucial subject, while ‘economic interdependence’ is itself as complete academic understanding which I have discussed above. The important feature of economic interdependence is the regulation of world politics through diverse channels that avoid the monopoly of countries (Magued, 2011). Therefore, economic cooperation has become the top among many other variables that create mutual interest between states that even affect socio-political interactions. Consequently, in order to have good relations, economic cooperation represents a substantial explanatory structure for countries like Türkiye and China.

Economic cooperation between Türkiye and China within the framework of security interdependence actually reflects as a substantial aspect of their connectivity. As mentioned earlier that security interdependence explores relationship on NTS issues and moving beyond traditional diplomatic lines to strengthen cooperation and common and collective ground. The strong economic partnership between Ankara and Beijing was established in 2010 which includes various proportions such as political, energy, security, and cultural connections (Weitz 2010). In spite of being a NATO member, Türkiye has established strategic cooperation with China and has approved laws to increase cooperation in several sectors since 2010 (Cüneyt 2022).

Türkiye and China relations can be tracked back thousands of years, but both states formally established their ties in 1971. Due to the Uyghurs issue, economic and diplomatic relations between the two countries were adjourned for many years. In due course, both nations revisited their policies and rebuilt their relations with the changing nature of security situation and created strategic partnership in the economic and cultural sectors. Later in 2012 and 2013, the two countries celebrated as ‘years of Türkiye and China relations’ (Colakoğlu, 2018). While the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is one of the significant breakthroughs in their relations which extended economic and development cooperation between Ankara and Beijing.

After the global economic crisis of 2008, Türkiye started experiencing rapid economic growth, which was ceased by Russian imposed sanctions in 2015, because Türkiye shot down a Russian jet near to Türkiye-Syria border (The Guardian, November 26, 2015). Later in 2016, the failed coup attempt marked the new start of the economic crisis that Ankara is still facing. Türkiye’s accession with European Union seems complicated, which has pushed Türkiye to create balance by partnering outsiders of the EU – including in Middle East, Asia, and Africa. In fact, Türkiye desires to gain advantage from multilateral policies with both the Europe and Americans, along with Russia and China (Silk road train first step, November 11, 2019). Consequently, Türkiye finds China as a good opportunity to reconstruct its unbalanced economy.

Türkiye is trying to come out of the current economic crisis and become a stable economy with a multidimensional economic and foreign policy. It has made good progress in engaging neighboring countries and China. There are two main reasons why Ankara wants to create good economic relations with China. First, China has become Türkiye’s major source of imports and second largest trading partner. Türkiye’s total volume of imports from China is huge, whereas Turkish goods meet many administrative regulations in China which has become a cause of very low export quantity. Second, both countries are maximizing their capabilities in trade and commercial relations through BRI. Türkiye wants economic influence in Middle East and Central Asia, while the ‘Middle Corridor’ is a great opportunity for Türkiye to execute with the help of Chinese BRI.

The key factor in the current economic cooperation between Türkiye and China is the venture of Belt and Road Initiative. It will connect China to Europe through land route via Central Asia – Türkiye, and maritime route via the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal. China has ambition to achieve four main objectives through its BRI: i) development of infrastructure and rapid increase of its economic growth; ii) safe and secure energy supply, especially from the Middle East, with extended Chinese export routes to the world; iii) expansion of economic mobility through employment for the people of Western China; and iv) reduced tensions with the Uyghurs of Xinjiang with the help of economic development (Global Times, March 18, 2015).

China is on its way to fulfill its objectives through BRI, while it is also cooperating with Türkiye in infrastructure development projects. Chinese state-owned railway company and Turkish private company are constructing a high-speed railway tract between Ankara and Istanbul (Next Big Future, July 08, 2015). Furthermore, both sides are working to construct railway track between Türkiye, Georgia, and Azerbaijan (Asian Times, November 19, 2015). China is very interested in expanding its economic cooperation with Türkiye under the framework of BRI. In addition, Türkiye has joined as one of the founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is working for economic and infrastructure development on the BRI route (Türkiye Joins AIIB as, April 11, 2015).

Türkiye and China relations have remained fluctuated, but connected with the desire for economic cooperation. Both nations are willing to benefit from joint economic and infrastructure projects, but they do not have enough history of such mutual cooperation. In the current wave of economic crisis, Ankara is not in a position to neglect a serious investor like China. Chinese investment is very important not only for Türkiye but for the current government. Moreover, both nations have a common interest in economic cooperation. On the other hand, factor of security interdependence encouraging both nations to improve their bilateral relations. Moreover, Ankara needs Chinese foreign investments and technology, and China wants to move forward with its BRI, which provides a common interest perspective between the two countries. For China, this common interest in the economy contains a more inclusive policy of the BRI, whereas Türkiye needs growth in foreign investment, even in the case of its negative trade balance (Lavi and Lindenstrauss, 2016). The contemporary economic cooperation between Türkiye and China shows a change towards a more refinement and interconnected relationship that spreads beyond mere economic interests to comprehend broader security respects and mutual benefits – security interdependence.

Energy Security Cooperation

Energy security has become the challenging phenomenon, while, the growing demand for energy has opened new fronts for many countries. Energy security has become one of the leading tools of diplomacy to safeguard energy supply chains. The rising scale of energy trade and energy interdependence is further emphasizing energy cooperation to create more opportunities for producing and consuming states to ensure the security of their supply routes. Regional and mutual energy agreements, long-distance pipelines and larger installations in the global energy trade are good examples of energy cooperation. Türkiye and China are also having energy security cooperation within the framework of security interdependence. This collaboration is embedded in the exploration of interdependent relations on NTS issues, directing efforts to foster partnership and common ground while moving beyond old diplomatic methods.

Türkiye is almost dependent on foreign energy – fossil fuels. In the recent disturbance of Iran’s gas pipeline supplies to Türkiye, claimed as a technical fault, has brought an energy crisis in the country. Ankara had to restrict the industrial use of natural gas for three days, which almost cost 1 billion US dollars to the country (Al-Monitor, January 31, 2022). The energy demand raised from 80.5 million tons of oil equivalents in 2000 to 147.2 million tons of oil equivalents in 2020. The share of imported resources in energy production increased from 52 to 70 percent in the same period, which has increased electricity, natural gas, and fuel prices (Türkiye is faced with a, February 07, 2022).

The increasing dependency on foreign supply marked, high oil prices, a nationalist backlash, instability in some exporting nations, geopolitical rivalries, and fears of a scramble for supplies. The need for energy supply has compelled Türkiye to look forward to renewable energy options. In this, Türkiye is working on clean coal technologies and new generation of nuclear power. These initiatives show that Türkiye is very much interested in applying all available options to meet its energy requirements. It has quite a positive effect on the future energy picture. Dependence and demand for energy resources have also prompted Türkiye to cooperate with China through a range of projects.

No doubt, China has developed good bilateral energy cooperation with Türkiye in recent years. According to the bilateral agreement on energy cooperation, China will push Chinese energy companies to cooperate and invest with Turkish government and private companies in thermal power, nuclear and renewable energy. It is a good opportunity for Türkiye to come out of its power shortage problem. Mostly Chinese energy companies are familiar with Turkish energy companies due to their investment in thermal power plants in Türkiye. For example, Chinese and Turkish companies founded lignite-powered thermal power plant is operating in Adana province of Türkiye (Belt and Road to prop, April 23, 2019).

Türkiye is trying hard to secure external energy contracts because it will help Ankara to fix the huge burden of its budget deficit by lessening its dependence on imported energy. To make it possible, Türkiye has to completely utilize its domestic energy resources like, solar, wind, and coal. In this regard, Ankara has taken initiatives for new deals on nuclear cooperation and signed an agreement with the Chinese State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation for construction of Türkiye’s third nuclear plant with the capacity of five giga-watts of electricity (Gündoğan and Turhan, 2017). Power Construction Corporation of China is one of the top hydropower industries of China, which has started its investment in Türkiye. It is constructing nine projects, including four thermal power projects and five hydropower stations. China National Chemical Engineering Co Ltd is another top company in China, which is also investing in several major chemical projects in Türkiye, including construction of an underground gas storage facility (Chinese companies employ, January 24, 2022).

Some analysts believe that Chinese companies have supported local Turkish institutions to deal with actual problems and created a good environment, which is beyond current technical and professional standards (Chinese companies employ, January 24, 2022). The Hunutlu Power Plant Project and SMART solar energy project are new ventures which will enhance the distribution of renewable energies such as hydrogen power and wind to help in creating a low carbon production unit. In the last 10 years, Chinese investment in the energy sector of Türkiye has witnessed a significant rise, which will ultimately fulfill the energy demands of Ankara (Chinese companies employ, January 24, 2022).

The above-mentioned evidence shows that the partnership between Türkiye and China exceeds traditional bilateral ties and is a form of security interdependence. It is notifying that this momentum has crossed the obstacles of traditional partnerships and moves towards a more consistent relationship that drives beyond economic interests to comprehend broader security reflections. This cooperation also shows a strategic evolution towards shared objectives and mutual benefits to deal with NTS issues.


No doubt, Türkiye and China have shown positive cooperation on NTS issues, specifically in the field of economic security, anti-terrorism cooperation, and energy security cooperation, within the framework of security interdependence. However, it is important to acknowledge that their relationship does not necessarily negate the existence of mistrust and varying interests between both states. In the historical context, the relationship between two states shows phases of disagreement and uncertainty in their diplomatic ties because of their distinct geopolitical positions with opposing regional priorities and strategic positions. It is very challenging for Türkiye to balance strong relations with NATO, the U.S., and the European Union alongside strong relations with China. Meanwhile, China focuses on its regional sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific region, and its motivated BRI highlights its strategic priorities.

It is also important to mention that despite increasing economic relations between Türkiye and China (including trade and investment), there is a possibility of economic competition or concerns on issues like trade imbalances and market access barriers. On the other hand, their political ideologies and values are also contrasting. Türkiye has a democratic system and is interested in EU membership; in contrast, China has an authoritarian governance model. Lastly, both states find themselves in distinct geopolitical regions, each presenting unique security challenges. Türkiye deals with regional conflicts, terrorism threats, and refugee crises, while China is facing territorial disputes and maritime security threats. All these alarming issues may result in negative changes in their foreign policies and perceptions, possibly leading to conflicting approaches in certain areas.


Nontraditional security issues have created imbalance in the current security environment, whereas the understanding of security interdependence gives logical methods to all affected states to cooperate beyond their borders. Türkiye and China have different geographical locations, but the common (NTS) threats have created options for developing good bilateral relations, especially in the field of terrorism, energy security, environmental security, and economic security. The diplomatic characteristics of security interdependence are significant for continuous cooperation on NTS issues, and that would even strengthen traditional security cooperation.

Türkiye and China case indicates that interdependence exists in the form of security interdependence which is more reliable in the current environment. This study develops the understanding of security interdependence which would help to pursue common interests for a shared future. Actually, what was demonstrated here, was the new theoretical framework of ‘security interdependence’, which provides a novel scholarship in many ways. It indicates a global system characterized by extended interdependent relations. No doubt, globalisation expedited interdependence, but it remained focused on the economy. The other NTS issues like, energy crisis, pandemic diseases, drugs trafficking, illegal migration, natural disaster, cyber security, maritime piracy, terrorism and extremism, money laundering, transnational crimes, and nuclear proliferation has been outlined by security interdependence with hierarchical based description.

Türkiye and China are trying to pursue common ground and throw out traditional differences for the sake of their shared future. According to this study, security interdependence is a tool for long-term NTS cooperation which would establish mutual interest and trust between the two countries. Türkiye and China are required to attentively deal with new emerging NTS issues. No doubt, bilateral relations between Ankara and Beijing have great significance and their continued cooperation will create huge difference for human development. Overall, security interdependence indicates significant connectivity with emerging security issues – NTS issues. Türkiye and China relations are only one example, but it would be applicable to many other states.

  1. Altay, K. 2021. "Why Erdogan has abandoned the Uyghurs." Foreign Policy (March 02). (May 09, 2021).
  2. Amnesty International. 2021. "The Nightmare of Uyghur Families Separated by Repression." Accessed at (November 29, 2022).
  3. Atli, A. 2015. "Turkey to Get Railroads from China, not Missiles." Asia Times (November 19). (December 18, 2021).
  4. Atlı, A. 2016. "Turkey's foreign policy towards China: Analysis and recommendations for improvement." Policy Paper. Young Academics Program. Istanbul: Global Relations Forum, June. Accessed at (December 20, 2021).
  5. Ayres, J., & Macdonald, L. (Eds.). 2012. North America in Question: Regional Integration in an Era of Economic Turbulence. University of Toronto Press.
  6. Baldwin, David A. 1980. "Interdependence and Power: A Conceptual Analysis." International Organization 34 (4): 471-506.
  7. Barbieri, K. 1996. "Economic interdependence: A path to peace or a source of interstate conflict?" Journal of Peace Research 33(1): 29-49.
  8. Belt and Road to prop up Chinese renewable projects in Turkey. 2019. Daily Sabah (April 23). (May 09, 2022).
  9. Biersteker, T.J., Eckert, S.E. and Passas, N. 2008. Countering the Financing of Terrorism. London: Routledge.
  10. Bozdaglioglu, Y. 2004. Turkish foreign policy and Turkish identity: a constructivist approach. London: Routledge.
  11. Caporaso, James A. 1978. "Dependence, Dependency, and Power in the Global System: A Structural and Behavioural Analysis." International Organization 32 (1): 13-43.
  12. Chinese companies employ a green trend in Turkey (2022) China Org (January 24). (May 14, 2022).
  13. Chu, J. A. 2021. "Liberal ideology and foreign opinion on China." International Studies Quarterly , 65(4), 960-972.
  14. Colakoğlu, S. 2018. "Turkey-China Relations: From "Strategic Cooperation" to "Strategic Partnership"?" Middle East Institute (March 20). (January 04, 2022).
  15. Gürer, Cüneyt. 2022. Economic Needs and Global Desires. Per Concordiam Journal of European Security and Defense Issues. Accessed atürkiye-china-relations/. (March 19, 2024)
  16. Diamond, Patrick. 2019. The Great Globalization Disruption: democracy, Capitalism and Inequality in the Industrialized World. In The Crisis of Globalization: Democracy, Capitalism and Inequality in the Twenty-First Century , edited by Patrick Diamond, 1-24. London: IB Tauris.
  17. ETIM is a big threat as it keeps sending members to China to plot terrorist attacks: Ministry of Public Security. 2021. Global Times (July 16). (29 November 2022).
  18. Galeotti, M. 2015. "Why did it take Turkey just 17 seconds to shoot down Russian jet?" The Guardian (November 26). (July 13, 2022).
  19. Gang, D. 2015. "Diplomatic Efforts Augment Economic Dreams." Global Times (March 18, 6).
  20. Giddens, Anthony 1984 The Constitution of Society: outline of the Theory of Structuration. Oxford: Polity Press.
  21. Gunaratna R., Acharya A., and Pengxin W. 2010. Uighur Separatism: East Turkistan Groups. In: Ethnic Identity and National Conflict in China. US: Palgrave Macmillan.
  22. Heal, G. and Kunreuther, H. 2004. "Interdependent Security: A General Model." National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 10706. Accessed at (April 09, 2022).
    KoreaMed CrossRef
  23. Isik, A.F. and Zou, Z. 2019. "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(2): 278-293.
  24. Keohane, Robert O. and Joseph S. Nye. 2012. Power and Interdependence. 4th ed. Boston: Longman.
  25. Keohane, Robert O., and Joseph S. Nye 1987. "Power and Interdependence Revisited." International Organization 41 (4): 725-753.
  26. Kroll, J.A. 1993. "The Complexity of Interdependence." International Studies Quarterly , 37(3): 321-347.
  27. Lavi, G and Lindenstrauss, G. 2016. "China and Turkey: Closer Relations Mixed with Suspicion." Strategic Assessment 19(2): 119-127.
  28. Magued, S. 2011. "Economic Interdependence and Interstate Relations: A Theoretical Overview." Middle East Yearbook/Ortado ğu Y ıll ığı. Accessed at (April 14, 2022).
  29. Maizland, L. 2022. "China's Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang." Council on Foreign Relations , 25.
  30. Mehan, G.T 2013. "The Never-Ending Quest for Energy." The Quest Review , January/February. Accessed at (May 28, 2022).
  31. Nordin, Astrid H. M., and Graham M. Smith. 2018. "Reintroducing Friendship to International Relations: relational Ontologies from China to the West." International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 18 (3): 369-396.
  32. Noubel, F. 2021. "Turkey's Uyghur dilemma in the context of China's Belt and Road Initiative." Global Voices (September 24). (February 11, 2022).
  33. Öniş, Z. and Yalikun, M. 2021. "Emerging partnership in a post-Western world? The political economy of China-Turkey relations." Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 21(4): 507-529.
  34. Paris, R., 2001. Human Security: Paradigm shift or hot air?. International Security, 26(2): 87-102.
  35. Qin, Y. 2011. "Development of International Relations theory in China: progress through debates." International Relations of the Asia-Pacific , 11(2), 231-257.
  36. Rosecrance, R., A. Alexandroff, W. Koehler, J. Kroll, S. Laqueur, and J. Stocker. 1977. "Wither Interdependence?" International Organization 31 (3): 425-471.
  37. Rosenau, J. 2003. Distant proximities. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
    KoreaMed CrossRef
  38. Saglam, M. 2022. "Iran's gas cut exposes Turkey's vulnerability to energy risks." Al-Monitor (January 31). (June 21, 2022).
  39. Sandano, I. A., Shah, S. F. H., and Shaikh, I. A. 2019. "China's Belt and Road Initiative: A Step toward Shared Globalization." Otoritas: Jurnal Ilmu Pemerintahan 9(2): 139-151.
  40. Schoon, E.W. 2015. "The paradox of legitimacy: Resilience, successes, and the multiple identities of the Kurdistan workers' party in Turkey." Social Problems 62(2): 266-285.
  41. Silk road train 'first step towards a game changer' 2019. Daily News (November 11). (February 12, 2022).
  42. Sommerville, Q. 2009. "Turkey attacks China 'genocidé." BBC (July 10). (February 16, 2022).
  43. Sönnichsen, N. 2021. "Daily global crude oil demand 2006-2026." Statista (December 14). (June 06, 2022).
  44. Thakur, R. and Newman, E. 2004. Broadening Asia's Security Discourse and Agenda: Political, Social, and Environmental Perspectives. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.
  45. Turkey is faced with a serious energy crisis, says engineers chamber. 2022. BIA News Desk (February 07). (March 03, 2022).
  46. Turkey Joins AIIB as Founding Member. 2015. China Daily (April 11). (April 07, 2022).
  47. Uemura, T. 2015. "Understanding Chinese foreign relations: A cultural constructivist approach." International Studies Perspectives , 16(3), 345-365.
  48. Van Bergeijk, Peter A. G. 2019. Deglobalization 2.0: Trade and Openness during the Great Depression and the Great Recession. UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
    KoreaMed CrossRef
  49. Verhoeven, H. 2018. "The Gulf and the Horn: changing geographies of security interdependence and competing visions of regional order." Civil Wars , 20(3), 333-357.
  50. Waltz, K. 1970. The Myth of Interdependence. US: Harvard University Press.
  51. Wang, B. 2015. "China built high speed rail in Turkey and is building economically important rail in Africa." Next Big Future (July 08). (May 24, 2022).
  52. Wani, A. 2021. "China-Turkey extradition treaty and implications on Uyghurs." Observre Research Foundation (05 January). (June 21, 2022).
  53. Weitz, R., 2010. Turkey and China Establish Strategic Partnership. Turkey Analyst. Accessed atürkiye-analyst-articles/item/230-Türkiye-and-china-establish-strategic-partnership.html (March 19, 2024)
  54. Wibisono, Ali Abdullah. 2017. "ASEAN-China non-traditional security cooperation and the inescapability of the politics of security." Journal Global Strategies 11 (1): 39-54.
  55. World Economic Forum. 2006. The New Energy Security Paradigm. Spring Report. Accessed at (May 27, 2022).
  56. Yalvaç, F. 2014. "Approaches to Turkish Foreign Policy: A Critical Realist Analysis." Turkish Studies, 15(1), 117-138.
  57. Yitzhak, S. 2009. "Ethno-Diplomacy: The Uyghur Hitch in Sino-Turkish Relations." Policy Studies, 53.
  58. Yongzheng, Q. 2015. "Turkey's Ambiguous Policies Help Terrorists join IS Jihadist Group: Analyst." Global Times, December 15, 7.

22-1 (April 2024)
Full Text(PDF) Free

Social Network Service

Author ORCID Information