Citation

Solmaz, A. (2021/2022). The Sinology and Chinese studies symposium: A brand-new unifying perspective of Chinese Studies in Turkey. Belt & Road Initiative Quarterly, 3(1), 76-82.

 

 BY ACCOMPLISHING THE AIMS OF THE United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ago, the People’s Repub­lic of China has demonstrated the strength of its economy as a global leader (Solmaz, 2021). China’s rise is acknowledged by many count­ries and, as a result, has inevitably spurred the field of Chinese Studies. Indeed, the dominant role of the Chinese language in socio-econo­mic and socio-cultural aspects has also energi­zed the field of Sinology – the study of Chinese language, history, customs, and politics.

Engaging with Chinese Studies and con­ducting original research will undoubtedly benefit Turkey’s national interests. This is a time that gives rise to, not only economic and commercial concerns, but also security, strate­gic, and cultural pressures as part of the symp­toms of rising multipolarity. However, there are two major problems faced by Turkey con­cerning Chinese Studies: a) researchers often obtain information from Western sources, b) the field in Turkey has not reached maturity yet. These two problems hinder Turkey’s abi­lity to understand China and cause research to be disconnected from China’s realities. Wes­tern-centric studies have ignited anti-Chinese sentiments in Turkey, which distorts Turkey’s perception of China.

The current situation in Chinese Studies and the predominance of research that lacks a sound scientific basis necessitate the need for a new beginning in this field. At this point, one could argue that the Sinology and Chinese Studies Symposium, which focuses on Turkey’s interests and scientific rigor, has created a new platform in this field and responded to the stra­tegic needs in Turkey. In this article, I will try to explain the importance, benefits, and short­comings of the Symposium by discussing and making suggestions for the future of this event, which aims to establish itself as a tradition.

The First Sinology and Chinese Studies Symposium

The foundations of the Symposium were first laid out at the Sunday Talks1 meetings of the Turkish Student Association (TÖB), which was formed by Turkish students in China. The lea­ders of this union, who temporarily returned to Turkey due to the pandemic, continued its activities in Turkey. They held online seminars2 with scholars from leading departments of Si­nology, Chinese Language and Literature, and Chinese Translation and Interpretation in Tur­key, as well as institutions such as Shanghai Uni­versity, which has lately emerged as a pioneer of Turkish Studies in China. These events, which brought Turkey and China together, revealed the need for further developing the field of Chi­nese Studies in Turkey.

Thereupon, the TÖB, the Belt & Road Ini­tiative Quarterly (BRIQ), the Istinye University Center for Belt & Road Studies, and the Istan­bul University Chinese Language and Literature Department formed the core staff and initiated the First Sinology and Chinese Studies Sympo­ sium in Turkey. The number of co-organizers was later increased to include the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Turkey and Shanghai International Studies University.

Salon ve çevrim içi katılımcıları ile fotoğraf.
Participants

The Organizing and Scientific Committee

The Organizing Committee is the body that best proves the unifying and inclusive character of the Symposium. In particular, the heads of departments in well-established and leading universities in Turkey conducting Sinology and Chinese Studies were invited to the organizing committee. Inclusiveness was ensured by inviting competent scholars from other universities to the scientific committee. The Organizing Committee of the First Sinology and Chinese Studies Symposium is as follows;

  • Mehmet Adnan AKFIRAT, Chairman of the BRIQ Administrative Board
  • Ruilin SHİ, Undersecretary of Culture, The PRC Ankara Embassy
  • Prof. Dr. Eyüp SARITAŞ, Head of the De­partment of Chinese Language and Litera­ture at Istanbul University
  • Assoc. Prof. Gürhan Kırilen, Head of De­partment of Sinology at Ankara University DTCF
  • Assoc. Prof. Efe Can GÜRCAN, Chair­man of the Center for Belt and Road Stu­dies at Istinye University
  • Dr. Nurcan KALKIR, Head of the Depart­ment of Chinese Language and Literature at Erciyes University
  • Mustafa ALTINKAYA, Chairman of TÖB Beijing
  • Anıl SOLMAZ, Chairman of TÖB Shan­ghai

The Scientific Committee, under the chairmanship of Prof. Dr. Eyüp SARITAŞ, consists of fifteen scholars from Turkey and China covering a wide range of specializations, including Sinology, Chinese Language and Literature, Chinese Translation and Interpretation, International Relations, Sociology, and History.3

Çin Ankara Büyükelçisi konuşmasını yapıyor.
Chinese Ambassador to Turkey

With the Scientific Committee, which inc­ludes scholars from Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University and Okan University, the Symposi­um has brought together rooted and leading institutions dealing with China and Chinese in Turkey. This is an important step for the first Symposium, but it is necessary to further expand the scientific committee, make gre­ater use of universities in China, and attract scholars from Europe and the Americas. These aims should be included in the success criteria for future studies.

Participants and Proceedings

Four hundred and ninety-seven applications were made to attend the two-day symposium, which was organized as a “hybrid” of face-to-fa­ce attendance at the Istinye University Congress Center in Istanbul and online attendance on Zoom on 24-25 September 2021. There were also guests from Germany, America, Azerba ijan, India, and the Netherlands, though most attended from Turkey and China. Such diver­sity is undoubtedly a success for a symposium held for the first time - it became an internati­onal event.

Another feature of the Symposium was the quality of the opening speeches. China’s Am­bassador to Ankara and Turkey’s Ambassador to Beijing acknowledged the significance of the Symposium in their speeches. They emphasi­zed how important this symposium is for the two countries to get to know each other on a scientific level and emphasized the importance of joint work. Furthermore, the presented pa­pers discussed a broad spectrum of topics, inc­luding the Turkic languages spoken in China, Wolfharm Eberhard and Turkish Sinology, the geopolitical economy of China’s peaceful deve­lopment, and the North Pacific Ocean Strategy concerning China. A total of fifteen proceedin­gs were presented and discussed in four sessi­ons moderated by Assoc. Prof. Gurhan Kirilen, Prof. Dr. Giray Fidan, Prof. Dr. Caner Karavit, and Dr. Nurcan Kalkır, respectively.

Bilim Kurulu Başkanı Prof.Dr. Eyüp Sarıtaş konuşmasını yapıyor
Bilim Kurulu Başkanı Prof.Dr. Eyüp Sarıtaş konuşmasını yapıyor

The Importance of the Symposium for Turkey And China Studies The Course of Chinese Studies in Turkey

With the recent acceleration of diplomatic and commercial relations, Turkey’s interest in Chi­nese Studies has increased. This is also thanks to becoming the second-largest economy in the world. Our historical and intersecting ties, ex­hibited by the findings of Pre-Islamic Turkish history from the Chinese pages, trace Chinese Studies in Turkey back even further than we thought. However, the field of Chinese Studies in Turkey owes its current status to the pione­ering studies of Wolfram Eberhard. His work, History of China (Eberhard, 1947), published by the Turkish Historical Society, is his best-known work alongside his articles and lectures. After leaving Turkey for the University of Cali­fornia in 1949, he continued his studies in the United States. After this period, Chinese Stu­dies in Turkey went into stagnation.

Although most of the studies carried out in Turkey after Eberhard fall within the domain of Classical Chinese Studies, China's socio-economic and socio-cultural achievements have pushed Contemporary China Studies to the fore.

Though, it would not be correct to say that the Chinese studies in Turkey came to an end with Eberhard’s departure to the United States. Today, Chinese Studies are kept alive thanks to the proliferation of academic events and rese­arch centers in Turkey. Although most of the studies carried out in Turkey after Eberhard fall within the domain of Classical Chinese Stu­dies, China’s socio-economic and socio-cultu­ral achievements have pushed Contemporary China Studies to the fore. The departments of Sinology and Chinese Language and Literature, which are included in universities such as An­kara University and Istanbul University, contri­bute to this field. In addition to these, Turkish universities are trying to meet the needs of this field by establishing Chinese Research Centers (see Istanbul Aydın University). Recently, the field of International Relations has focused on China and started to examine Chinese move­ments such as the Belt and Road Initiative . A case in point is the Istinye University Center for Belt & Road Studies, which is the first research center to focus its efforts on the Belt and Road in Turkey.

Undoubtedly, the number of such initiatives in China Studies will increase as Turkey’s fore­ign policy increasingly focuses on Asia. At this point, the most important task is to consolidate the field of Chinese Studies, which offers a sys­tematic and solid philosophy.

The New Perspective offered by the Symposium into China Studies

At this point, the First Symposium of Sinology and Chinese Studies has built a new unity by bringing Sinology and Chinese Studies toget­her. A ship, whose route was not drawn by ex­perts and could not successfully take the wind behind it, would not reach the targeted place. The Symposium’s Organizing and Scientific Committee will be the new route and wind for the field of Chinese Studies in Turkey. The main philosophy of the Symposium is to explain Chi­na to Turkey and Turkey to China from the authentic and primary sources and to enable both countries to benefit from each other using scientific methods. It has refreshed the field of Contemporary Chinese Studies in Turkey by refuting the arguments of research centers that have become tools for political purposes and institutions that imitate the West. This move­ment is unifying and integrating, which will ensure a sound future for China Studies.

 

Another important element is the feature of the Symposium that appeals to China. Gi­ven that the field of Turkish Studies in China has just started to mature, it is an indisputable fact that China also needs to reach first-hand sources and especially the “authentic” sour­ces. When such sources are examined, it will be revealed that much false information has been published about Turkey in line with the information obtained from secondary (and Western-centric) sources. A misleading picture has been drawn about Turkey in Chinese public opinion. In consideration of this problem, the Symposium’s close contact with the Chinese Embassy and the Turkish Studies Consortium in China will have a positive impact on the re­search of the two countries. In this respect, the Symposium is not only an important platform for Turkish researchers who are involved in Chinese Studies but also a wider channel where valuable researchers conducting Turkey Studies in China can convey their views.

Conclusion

The First Symposium of Sinology and Chinese Studies has been a breath of fresh air in Contem­porary China Studies in Turkey with its techni­cal and scientific aspects. It is the first and most important step taken for the institutionalization required in Turkish Sinology and Chinese Stu­dies. With the international status it has gained, the Symposium has also laid the foundation and qualifications necessary to broadcast Turkey’s accumulated knowledge in Contemporary Chi­nese Studies to the world.

The Symposium has demonstrated theore­tical knowledge by bringing together experts from Turkey and China as part of the Organi­zing and Scientific Committee. The most im­portant task ahead is to expand the scope of academic discussions by including everyone who are involved in Chinese Studies on this platform. For researchers from Turkey to reach first-hand sources on China, it should act as a mediator in creating opportunities for field and archive studies in China. It should form a jour­nal that will publish these studies and root this journal for scientific purposes.

The First Symposium on Sinology and Chi­nese Studies was concluded successfully. We left behind a historical milestone in the field of Chinese Studies in Turkey. The period we are in is critical for Turkey to better recognize and understand China’s national aspirations. This makes it necessary for all valuable Chinese re­searchers in Turkey to make use of this sympo­sium with the highest efficiency. See you at the next symposium!

 

Kaynakça

Çin Türk Öğrenci Birliği.  (t.y.).https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSZ4QWoft4eRRkGzElS_kEA 
Eberhad, W. (1947). Çin Tarihi. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu.
Sinoloji Sempozyumu. (n.d.). Scientific Committee. Retrieved from https://www.sinolojisempozyumu.turkogrencibirligi.org/en/scientificcommittee/
Solmaz, A. (2021). Çin’in Yoksullukla Mücadele Tarihçesi. Teori, 379, 63-69.
Türk Öğrenci Birliği. (n.d.). Events. Retrieved from https://turkogrencibirligi.org/etkinlikler/