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The Risk of China’s Soft Power and Sharp Power Eroding Human Rights: A Case Study on Sino-Turkish Relations and Turkey’s Shifting Position on Uighurs

  • Silence is Complicity: Uighurs, Turkey, and China

Presentation author(s)

Gabby Watson ’21, Madison, Wisconsin

Majors: International Relations; Chinese Language and Culture
Minor: Anthropology


Roughly two million Uighurs are believed to be locked in China’s detainment camps. Historically, Turkey has provided shelter for Uighurs who have escaped, and engaged in naming-and-shaming China for its abuses against the Muslim minority. Yet as China’s oppression has escalated, Ankara’s objections towards China’s treatment of the Uighurs have quieted. After outlining the history of the Uighur crisis, I will analyze Turkey’s position shift as a case study of how China wields its transnational influence. Rather than relying on military power, China has been able to expand its influence to countries in South and Central Asia and project its authoritarian practices outwards by exercising soft power and sharp power. I conclude by considering the broader implications of China’s ability to erode the international human rights regime through its soft power and sharp power tactics.


Beth Dougherty

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