In July of 2009, after dozens of Uighurs were killed or went missing in the wake of ethnic riots in western China's Xinjiang province, Turkish merchants were setting fire to Chinese-made products, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed a "genocide" had been committed and a diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Beijing appeared to be brewing. (For more details, take a look at these previous posts.)
Cut to today, with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao coming to Turkey on an official visit and announcing with Erdogan that the two countries are establishing a "strategic partnership" and plan to triple their trade in the next five years. This comes on the heels of reports that Turkish and Chinese military jets trained together, as part of the annual Anatolian Eagle exercises that Ankara last year controversially banned Israel from participating in (on the grounds that the Turkish public wouldn't accept the presence of the same military that attacked Gaza on Turkish soil). Uighurs? "Genocide?" Let bygones be bygones. Clearly Turkey and China have bigger fish to fry these days.
It's fairly obvious to say that when it wants to be, the Erdogan government can be exceedingly pragmatic, especially when the issue is expanding trade. But I think the interaction with China also says a lot about "public opinion" in Turkey and how it can be shaped by official attitudes. Since the "genocide" remark in July of 2009, Erdogan and other officials have said very little about the situation in Xinjiang and have refrained from criticizing China. The result? Where one would expect at least some reaction on the behalf of the Turkish public on behalf of their Uighur kin during the Chinese leader's visit, there has been silence.