A symbol of cross-cultural dialogue, Idris Talha Kartav was just getting started. Idris was building himself into an iconic figure well-known by a legion of Chinese fans from ‘Informal Talks’, a TV show which he starred on.
But on February 6, Idris’s promising life was tragically cut short.
Idris, who at the time was staying at the Grand Isias Hotel in Adiyaman, was one of 52,000 plus victims of the twin earthquakes that struck south Türkiye and Syria last month.
Iranian actor and television presenter based in China, Arash Estilaf considered Idris a close friend. “It was a big shock for me,” Arash tells TRT World. “Idris loved his country and loved to help people,” he says.
“He was a very loyal friend,” Arash affirms, noting how Idris always looked to give and never expected anything in return.
They were first introduced to each other over a Chinese hot pot meal before they were supposed to record a TV show in China when Arash discovered how starstruck Idris was. “He said, ‘I really admire you. You are my idol’,” says Arash, adding that Idris was a big fan of his TV shows and had learned Chinese by watching them.
“He was so friendly and cheerful,” recalls another of Idris’s friends, Afsin Avci. “I always remember him raising the energy up wherever he was.”
Afsin, who has been organising world-scale influencer summits since 2016, first met Idris in 2018 due to his influencing power in China. Afsin then invited Idris and some of his fellow Chinese KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) to the INFLOW Global Summit 2018.
“Since that day, a close friendship was born between us,” Afsin tells TRT World.
Idris also attended the INFLOW Qatar Summit in 2019, and the next one in Antalya in 2020. “He was always helpful and ready to share his expertise on how we can grow the INFLOW network,” Afsin says, adding that Idris even helped them start their China-related initiatives prior to the pandemic.
Arash highlights that they were not just friends, but doppelgangers too.
“We really look like each other a lot. One of his fans said that he cannot recognise who Arash is and who Idris is,” he laughs, before adding: “With his passing, I lost myself.”
The face of Türkiye
Hailing from Istanbul, Idris dropped out of architecture school in 2010 at the age of 18 and went to China, where he studied at Xiamen University and did his master’s in international relations. He also presided over the International Turkish Students’ Association during that time.
“I could have studied business in the United States, the immediate choice that springs to mind. But I thought China would be a better choice for my future and my father fully supported me,” he said in an interview with Beijing Review, China’s national English magazine, which described Idris as eager to contribute to friendly ties and cooperation between Türkiye and China.
The 31-year-old, known as Tang Xiaoqiang in China, first participated in Hubei TV’s popular variety show Informal Talks as a representative of Türkiye, becoming a regular fixture that informed the audience and other guests about Turkish culture and history. Fluent in Chinese, he won admirers with his sense of humour and respectful attitude towards Chinese culture.
He used to frequently express his affection for China by sharing his experiences online. He once said he wished to settle in Xiamen, China’s southeastern Fujian Province and had plans to buy a house there and become a permanent resident.
Afsin says Idris was dedicated to spreading a positive perception of his own country to Chinese viewers, which led to him having an active role in developing Chinese-Turkish relations and business ties as well.
This was especially apparent in the tourism sector, with thousands of Chinese tourists visiting Türkiye in large part due to Idris’s content which he posted on the influential Chinese social media platform, Weibo.
It worked the other way too, as Idris became a go-to source for those intrigued by China. “Being an influencer in China, he had unique experience and know-how about the land. Someone wanting to know more about China, or do business there, always ended up with Idris because he was so helpful to people who wanted to discover this market,” Afsin says.
“He was introducing lots of beautiful things about Türkiye to a Chinese audience,” Arash says. But he also laments that Idris did not get enough support from back home, especially for someone that consistently spoke of Türkiye in a good light.
“His name should be known by Turkish people. He did a lot to introduce Türkiye to the world.”