It’s time for the Sino-Turkish cooperation to accelerate the Belt and Road Initiative

It’s time for the Sino-Turkish cooperation to accelerate the Belt and Road Initiative

China and Turkey are the only two G20 countries that have achieved positive growth in 2020. The two countries share an endogenous driving force to fight the epidemic and enhance the growth of their economies. Prioritizing the public interest is the driving force in both countries. Similar to China, Turkish health services are mainly based on public infrastructure and populist traditions. Turkey defined public health protection as a priority from the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, the Turkish government has been more successful in fighting the virus epidemic than Western capitalist countries.

Partners in Belt and Road

China and Turkey are also working hard on co-operation based on the BRI. In this regard, two countries are taking the lead in the world. The construction of the related FTAs, industrial parks, and science and Technology Parks in China and Turkey has gained momentum recently. Even if it should have been set up many years ago, this is the right time to implement FTA’s and science and technology parks. Most importantly, the Turkish government’s approach to economic co-operation with China has changed dramatically. Four or five years ago, Turkey was making some difficulties against Chinese investment and co-operation with China. Today, Turkey has a very determined desire to get rid of external dependence on critical technologies.

The development of scientific and technological co-operation between the two countries is vital for the Belt and Road Initiative. China should consider Turkey as a manufacturing and distribution base. Turkey has educated young population, and Turkey’s advanced industrial and logistics infrastructure provides tremendous advantages to Chinese companies. Turkey’s customs union agreement with the E.U. is also a significant opportunity. The Chinese brands manufactured in Turkey will be able to enter the E.U. market with zero customs duty. Restrictions put by the West on China can be overcome by Sino-Turkish collaboration.

Broader scope for security alliance

As two big powers with strong international influences, China and Turkey can play more significant roles in global and regional security co-operations. The two countries have no conflicts of interest, and they defend similar views in the international arena. Both countries favor the establishment of a fair, more equal, and sustainable new global order. President Erdogan always says, “The World is Bigger than Five” to criticize U.S.’ bullying at the U.N. Security Council.

China and Turkey do not sufficiently realize the potential of each other due to baseless reasons. On the Chinese side, Turkey’s NATO membership becomes the basis of unrealistic assessments about Turkey. The Republic of Turkey is since 1947 fighting against the U.S. and NATO to protect the country’s independence and defend national interests. The US has planned and supported the coup attempt of July 15th, 2016, using the Gulen Organization, and Turkey has suppressed this US organized coup and thus got rid of Washington’s control. This coup attempt is a very historical event that caused Turkey to break away from the Atlantic camp.

U.S. answers this break away by trying to change the regime in Turkey. U.S. troops are besieging the West and to the south of Turkey. Turkey is threatened by U.S. aircraft carriers from the eastern Mediterranean. In the north of Syria, the US is trying to establish a Kurdish state by making a massive military build-up. The projected “Kurdish state” will be second Israel in the region. Iran, Iraq, Turkey will be divided.

Economic independence is the next step

Turkey tries to answer these threats primarily by relying on its own power. However, the danger is severe and significant. The U.S. and Israel, dragging intermediate powers such as France, are forcing Turkey to surrender. Turkey is resisting by establishing the Astana Alliance with Russia and Iran. But, Turkey’s economic fragility has emboldened the enemy.

Last 65 years as a member of NATO, Turkey was dragged into the West’s semi-colonial status. Since 1980, it has been caught in a spiral of foreign debt that has destroyed the national economy under globalization. Turkey realized that an economy based on foreign debt is not sustainable and now trying to switch to a production economy with a particular emphasis on investment and employment.

China should invest more in Turkey

The trade co-operation, investment co-operation, and high-tech co-operation between China and Turkey should be accelerated. Turkey does not demand hot money from China but support for China to invest in projects that are obviously profitable in Turkey. China’s investment in Turkey in the field of high technology will bring significant benefits to both countries.

China and Turkey have a great potential in investment partnership. Turkey has significant investment projects in infrastructure. For example, the North Aegean Port, the East-West and North-south high-speed train line, the large petrochemical production facility around Mersin, the extraction and processing of the hydrocarbon asset in the Black Sea, the exploring of the natural gas fields in the Black Sea, the production of joint aircraft engines and tank engines in the defense industry, etc.

Turkey and China have begun investments in some fields; one of them is smartphones. Oppo and Xiaomi have constructed facilities to produce mobile phones in Turkey. In contrast to the U.S. and E.U., Turkey is building a 5G infrastructure with Huawei. Another area of great potential is the medical field. Turkey is one of the most advanced countries in the medical field, far developed than most European countries. Turkey has recently escaped from the West’s captivity in pharmaceutical production. Therefore, Turkey has realized a significant breakthrough in medicine to produce technologically advanced products. This field has a substantial potential for collaboration with China.

Developing together

The two countries should also consider making joint investments in third countries. Co-operation between Turkey and China in Africa will give both two countries great opportunities. Africa has a love and respect for Turkey deriving from history. Remember that a significant part of the population in Africa is Muslim. Turkish businesspeople are gaining considerable success in Africa. The United States and France are provoking African countries and peoples against China. China’s co-operation with Turkish companies will neutralize these provocations of the West, and resistance against China will weaken.

A concrete proposal

Another practical and strategic co-operation field is the exploration of natural gas fields in the Mediterranean. China and Turkey should join Egypt’s natural gas exploration in the eighteenth East Mediterranean Parcel.

Adnan Akfırat

Adnan Akfirat is former representative to China and Member of International Relations Bureau of the Patriotic Party of Türkiye; Chairman of Turkish-Chinese Business Development and Friendship Association (Turk-Cin Is Der); visitor researcher of Shanghai University Turkish Studies Center and Shihezi University Silk Road Research Center. Mr. Akfirat has been living in Shanghai since 2011.

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June 2024