26 March 2015
Controversies surrounding China’s missile system procurement bid in Turkey
By Nuzhanat Ametbek
Turkish Weekly


As the headline “Missile sale to Turkey confirmed” swept across the internet last week, the possibility of China providing Turkey with a missile defense system has once again become the topic of heated discussion. Nonetheless, one day after the abovementioned news piece was published, the manufacturer of China’s renowned FD-2000 air defence missile system denied such claims that it was commencing work with Turkey on a missile defence system.

The fact: “the media read too much into this”

Although China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation (CPMEIC) won the bid to supply Turkey with a missile defense system in 2013, due to the pressure of the US and Turkey’s European NATO allies, the project has been put on hold. Opposition to Turkey’s acquisition of a Chinese-produced system has been based on the fact that integration of said system with the NATO systems already in place in Turkey could subject the latter to security risks, such as hacking and the leaking of sensitive military information. US President Obama has explicitly asked Turkish President Erdogan not to buy the Chinese missile defense system. Conversely, if the two systems were to be integrated, some Chinese experts also express concerns that Chinese military secrets could be divulged to NATO.

“The FD-2000 air defense missile system was confirmed to have won a Turkey missile system procurement bid” China Central Television reported at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (also called the LIMA Air Show), which was opened in Malaysia.

This news spread rapidly throughout Chinese and Turkish media. Yet, an executive of CPMEIC told the Global Times that “The media read too much into this. There is no new information on the bid”.

Turkey’s position

Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz also said in February that Turkey had no plans to integrate a new missile defense system with its NATO infrastructure. And according to Reuters, an official from Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries said that Turkey has not decided on its planned long-range missile defense system and contract talks with China are ongoing.

As reported by Daily Sabah, Erdogan said that all of the countries who submitted a bid in 2013 (France/Italy, the US and China) now accept at least some aspects of the deal that they initially did not. A final decision, Erdogan said, will be announced after close evaluation of these changing positions.

Rumors among Ankara’s political circles purport that no decision will be made on the missile defense system winner before April 24 because Turkey wants to wait and see France and the US’s official positions on the 1915 incidents. In the end, if these administrations adopt a pro-Armenian stance, an agreement may be made with China.

China’s attitude against the politicization of normal business competition

According to Li Weijian, who is the director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, the “tug of war” with regard to China’s sale of HQ-9 air defense missile systems to Turkey has been going on for more than one year; and Turkey doesn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to enhance its military power, to obtain military technology, and to lower the West’s asking price, even if the deal with China does not succeed. As Turkey maintains its communication with China in recent days, the Western countries have continued their attempts to persuade Turkey to scrap the deal.

Li Weijian believes that this “Running war” shows that, first of all, the price of China’s air defense missile systems really meets the needs of Turkey. This is also true when it comes to the favorable conditions that China can provide Turkey in terms of technology transfer. Secondly, although the West has repeatedly spoken out against Turkey’s purchase of Chinese missiles, it has been unable to provide Turkey with terms as favorable as those offered by China.

Nonetheless, Li Weijian also points out that France and Italy and other European defense companies remain in close contact with Turkey, trying to prompt it to change its mind. Some analysts believe that if Western countries were to provide the same conditions that China is willing to provide, Turkey would ultimately refuse the Chinese offer.

For China, CPMEIC’s last successful bid in Turkey has made the “red flag-9” surface-to-air missile well-known around the world in a time during which China’s influence already appears to be increasing. In this context, Western powers have joined the Chinese-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), despite public opposition by the US, a fact that China sees could possibly have a positive impact on Turkey’s military procurement decisions.

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