原文标题：For stability and strategic caution: China's stance on Iran and Turkey’s interventions in Kurdistan, Iraq
In what may be a surprise to many, China has never been a stranger to the Kurdish issue. During the Maoist era, the People’s Republic of China recognized the Kurds as “an oppressed people in the Middle East” and established communication channels with numerous leftist or nationalist organizations with Kurdish contingents, such as the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the Iraqi Communist Party. China also helped train those parties' cadres, and of course shared the Maoist ideology and experiences of the Chinese Revolution with them. In June 1960, the People’s Daily, an official Chinese media outlet, praised the Iranian Kurds’ democratic struggle against the “reactionary regime of the Pahlavi dynasty” in the 1940s.
After Chinese economic reform from 1979 onward, however, the country's foreign policy became much less ideological, and China’s goal in the Middle East moved from supporting justice in the Third World to becoming every regional actor’s friend. China's core strategy in the Middle East is to emphasize economic cooperation while avoiding political alliances, and to maintain a balanced relationship with all actors in the region while avoiding picking sides in regional conflict. In 2016, President Xi Jinping announced the famous “three no principle”: China pledges not to look for any proxies, not to seek any sphere of interest, and not to attempt to fill any power vacuum in the Middle East. A basic principle of Chinese foreign policy is to fully respect sovereignty of other states and not to intervene with other states’ domestic issues. Therefore, China has been refraining from making a public stance regarding the Kurdish question because of its sensitivity to the sovereignty of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.
As the largest investor to the Middle East, and as promoter of its Belt and Road Initiative – a massive global infrastructure development project aiming to enhance China’s global economic cooperation including with the Middle East – China wishes to help the region maintain stability and promote economic development. For example, Beijing and Baghdad have been realizing a 20-year oil-for-reconstruction plan since 2019, which stipulates that Iraq will provide 100,000 barrels of oil to China per day, while China will be responsible for facilitating reconstruction projects in Iraq, including construction of railroads, highways, housing, harbors, hospitals, schools, dams, and energy transportation networks. China has promised to invest $10 billion into those reconstruction plans. Because of China’s close economic ties with Iraq, and it's principle of not intervening in other states' domestic politics, China has not expressed an official stance regarding the Kurdistan issue, preferring to leave discussion of the matter to regional actors. This represents a radical shift from China's Maoist era diplomatic activism, which viewed Kurdish demands as congruent with its revolutionary global plans.
China is serious about improving its relationship with Iran, a country it trusts that is currently enjoying the fruits of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP, a high-level diplomatic status of Chinese foreign policy). But Iran is not as uniquely important to China as many Westerners might think. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are all part of the CSP with China; Iran's CSP status is not exceptional, and does not mean China will pick its side in Middle East regional conflicts.
Although China and Iran have recently grown closer thanks to their 25-year agreement, there are still factors causing distrust between the two states, such as the concerns of certain Chinese scholars and the public over whether economically struggling Iran can fulfill its financial obligations, the public's fear of any sort of religious extremism, and concern China could be dragged into Iran’s own conflicts with regional actors. China is aware that Iran will never be willing to promise regional autonomy to the Kurds. Hence, China will refrain from making any explicit stance on issues regarding Iranian Kurds.
China’s principle of not picking sides in Middle Eastern regional conflicts, however, does not mean that it should not show strategic caution towards the expansion of states like Turkey. Turkey’s aggressive expansion into both the Kurdish regions in Northern Syria and Kurdish regions in Iraq all prompt the possibility of armed conflicts or even full-blown wars, which could harm Chinese investments and other economic interests in Syria and Iraq. Moreover, China has been dissatisfied with Turkey’s so-called pan-Turkism for a long time, and official Chinese newspapers such as the Global Times often criticize Turkey for undermining China’s sovereignty. Pan-Turkism has unreasonably and baselessly labeled the Uyghur people living in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region as “Turks” – as unreasonable as Turkish nationalists labeling the Kurdish people as “mountain Turks” – and Turkey, driven by both pan-Turkism and the ruling party’s extreme religious zeal, has been supporting the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement(ETIM, now the Turkistan Islamic Party) from Xinjiang, defined both by theChinese government and the UN Security Council as a terrorist organization. During the Syrian Civil War, a large number of ETIM fighters travelled all the way to Syria to join the nefarious forces of Daesh (the Islamic State) and fought fiercely against the international community, including the Kurds in Syria and Iraq.
Deeply irritated by Turkey’s support for Xinjiang separatism and extremism, and impressed by the Kurdish people’s remarkably valiant struggle against Daesh, Chinese public opinion increasingly suggests that the government should establish and deepen its relationship with the Kurds, to contain Turkish expansion and pressure Turkey to stop support for separatism and terrorism in China - but Beijing has never made any official statements on the issue. China keeps a close watch on Turkish expansion in Syria and Iraq, and China in principle demands all states to fully respect the sovereignty of other states and opposes unilateral actions that may cause chaos in the region – especially military and political interventions into other states’ domestic issues.