Turkey and China's fifty years of respect and friendship
Celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between Turkey and China, Chinese president Xi Jinping shared a message on the anniversary of the nations’ bilateral relationship. According to the news in China Daily, Xi said in his message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that diplomatic relations have developed steadily in the last 50 years. Xi noted that since the foundations of strategic cooperation between the two countries were laid in 2010, the partnership in various fields has been progressing steadily.
Additionally, the Chinese president mentioned the fight against the coronavirus epidemic in his message. Stating that the two sides support each other against the pandemic, Xi Jinping said, ‘We have had a profitable cooperation on vaccines.’ In the continuation of his message, Xi emphasized that he attaches great importance to the development of China-Turkey relations and added: ‘I see the 50th anniversary as an opportunity to advance bilateral relations and I am ready to work with Erdogan for this.’
Expressing his view that the two countries should understand and support each other regarding common interests and concerns, Chinese President Xi stated that the stable and long-term development of strategic cooperation should be ensured. Xi added that this will benefit the two countries as well as the peoples of these countries.
Fifty years ago, on August 4, 1971, the Republic of Turkey and the People's Republic of China established their diplomatic relations. Since then, both countries have demonstrated remarkable social and economic progress and become two of the most important emerging powers of the early 21st century. For half a century, Turkey and China have steadily improved their relations in every field, based on the principle of mutual respect and trust.
The year 2010 was especially significant, as the general profile of bilateral relationships was raised to the level of strategic cooperation. A decade later, it can be easily observed that the Turkish-Chinese friendship is built on a strong foundation, as the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic brought them even closer. At the outset of the Wuhan outbreak, Turkey was one of the first countries to provide much-needed medical supplies to China. When the pandemic spread to Turkey in mid-2020, China reciprocated in kind and, subsequently, has been instrumental in providing Turkey with the COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac, which is currently in use across the country as part of the national inoculation campaign.
It is promising to see the significant increase of 62.5 per cent per annum in Turkish agricultural exports to China. In 2020, bilateral trade levels reached a record high – approximately $26 billion – and China became Turkey's second-biggest trading partner. Turkey's large trade deficit with China remains a concern, but the consensus reached between both countries to encourage more Chinese investment in Turkey and increased Turkish exports to China will hopefully lead to a more balanced commercial picture in the years ahead. E-commerce is another area with tremendous untapped potential. To seize the opportunity offered by new digital economies, introducing Turkish export products to China's big e-commerce platforms is crucial. High-level diplomacy between the two countries is continuing apace to maintain the momentum of quickly improving ties, coordinate positions concerning the complex regional and global challenges and prepare for the eventual post-pandemic recovery of economic growth and overseas tourism. Turkey will remain committed to having an open and continuous dialogue with China on every regional and global topic of mutual concern.
In a recent telephone conversation, President Erdogan and President Xi had an opportunity to discuss a wide array of issues of shared interest and concern. The close dialogue between the two leaders reflects mutual appreciation of the importance of increasing attention to Turkish–Chinese strategic cooperation in the coming years. The recent meeting between Foreign Ministers in Tashkent, Uzbekistan as well as Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Turkey in March 2021 have also proved most fruitful in ensuring that Turkey and China understand each other's perspectives on pressing international matters. The Turkey–China diplomatic ties are not merely a government-to-government relationship, but an indispensable exchange between two ancient civilizations acting as the westernmost and easternmost gateways to Asia. For this reason, great importance is attached to the ‘Asia Anew’ initiative aimed at deepening Turkey's engagement with Asian countries and contributing to economic integration across the continent.
In this regard, transport corridors are of critical significance. Turkey and China are natural heirs to the ancient Silk Road. They share the aspiration to reunite the Eurasian landmass with ambitious connectivity projects, namely Turkey's Middle Corridor and the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. As part of this shared vision, the first export cargo train service from Turkey to China was initiated in December 2020. The train followed the Trans-Caspian East-West-Middle Corridor via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and travelled from Istanbul to Xi'an in just 12 days. The number of these freight trains are increasing in 2021. Further use of this railway connection will enable Turkish and Chinese products to be more easily and rapidly delivered to their respective destinations. Moreover, it will greatly contribute to remedying the ongoing fragilities in global supply chains.