By Zhou Rong Source: Global Times Published: 2017-5-24
At the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum, it was noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sat on both sides of Chinese President Xi Jinping. President Erdogan, who delivered a speech at the opening ceremony, was prominent at the event, indicating that the Sino-Turkish relationship has become warmer. It shows that China attaches great importance to Turkey`s contribution to the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative.
During the talks between Xi and Erdogan, Xi spoke highly of Turkey`s support for and active participation in the B&R development. According to the Xinhua News Agency, Xi stressed that the development of China-Turkey strategic cooperative relations is in the fundamental interests of the two nations and their people. The two countries should better align their strategies according to the principle of equality and mutual benefits, and China is ready to steadily advance major cooperation projects with Turkey under the initiative, Xi was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
Erdogan agreed with Xi`s appraisal of Sino-Turkey relations, and he emphasized that under the B&R framework, Turkey is willing to work with China to strengthen cooperation in investment, transportation networks and infrastructure construction. He also said that his country welcomes Chinese enterprises to invest in Turkey.
In fact, Turkey is not only an important country along the China-Central Asia-West Asia International Economic Corridor; it is also an important gateway for China to Europe. During the 2016 G20 Hangzhou Summit, China and Turkey inked a memorandum of understanding on bilateral cooperation under the B&R initiative. In order to implement the consensus reached by the two leaders, the departments of transport of the two governments have held three consultations on the Sino-Turkish International Road Passenger & Cargo Transport Agreement since 2015 and finally reached a consensus, according to a website co-sponsored by China`s Ministry of Commerce.
For Turkey, China has become an important trading partner. Trade value between the two countries has grown from $238 million in 1990 to $27.7 billion in 2016. In order to promote further trade growth, a more balanced trade structure should be created. China`s accumulated direct investment in Turkey increased from $509 million in the whole of 2015 to $809 million in January 2017. Through Turkey`s ideal geographical position and economic strength, Chinese investors can reach markets in the Mediterranean, central Asia and the Middle East. Turkey, meanwhile, is eager for Chinese investment in ports, airports, railways, tunnels, energy, machinery, telecommunications and other fields related to infrastructure. Turkey and China have also signed e-commerce cooperation agreements.
At present, Turkey`s domestic political situation and the international environment are undergoing tremendous changes. Against this background, President Erdogan`s trip to China is of great significance, and the B&R initiative represents a new path for Turkey. The B&R initiative will not only help Turkey to offset its dependence on Europe economically, but will also strengthen the country`s strategic partnership with China. Compared with the indifferent attitude of the Europeans, Chinese leaders have shown great hospitality and respect to Erdogan. In this tough period for Turkey, China has become a reliable partner, and the B&R initiative offers more cooperation options and economic independence for Turkey. This has helped both Turkey and China.
Turkey has also been thinking about global governance together with China. Erdogan`s trip to Beijing indicates that the Turkish government will prioritize pragmatic relations with China.
As the largest industrialized country in the Balkans and the Middle East, Turkey will work with China to attain economic complementarity through the B&R initiative, to contribute to world peace through combating terrorism, and to improve the overall prosperity of Sino-Turkish relations by deepening mutual trust.
The author is a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.