Our Analytics 3 july — 13:28

Erdogan in China: Economy first, Uighurs later (Hot on the heels)



During his visit to China, President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan assured that he was ready to further develop cooperation with Beijing in the trade sphere, in particular, within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project. At the same time, during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Turkish president stressed the importance of bilateral trade relations between Ankara and Beijing.

The dialogue between the Chinese and Turkish leaders lasted exactly one hour and ten minutes. This time was more than enough for them to agree on things that in the near future will have a very serious impact on the situation in Central Asia and in the Middle East. Since it was not only about the development of trade relations, Chairman Xi and President Erdogan spoke privately. More delicate topics were also discussed.

In order to understand that Erdogan's visit to Beijing was not just a protocol event, but an important one with deep background and far-reaching consequences, it was enough to pay attention to two points.

First, the composition of the Turkish delegation. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavushoglu, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, Industry Minister Mustafa Varank, Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekkan, Transport Minister Cahit Turhan and Head of the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) Hakan Fidan.

The list is not just impressive, but also very eloquently speaking, at least that the current direct dialogue between Ankara and Beijing will necessarily include the topics of Turkey's participation in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), developing cooperation between the two countries in production weapons and security issues.

Second, on the eve of Erdogan's visit to Beijing in the Chinese Global Times, a newspaper that is being made in the international department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, an article by the Turkish president 'Turkey, China share a vision for future' was published. The article started with a significant premise: 'Turkey and China bear a significant share of responsibility for the emergence of a new world order.'

With all the geographical distance, the geopolitical rapprochement of Beijing and Ankara is a completely objective phenomenon caused by mutual interest. China needs Turkey as the most important part of the BRI land route: the railway line through Georgia and Azerbaijan to the Caspian Sea, and then through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to China's Xinjiang. And, accordingly, vice versa.

The interest of the Turkish side is also obvious and very serious. On the question of whether Turkey can achieve economic growth without foreign investment, the answer is unequivocal - no, the country's own resources are not enough for this. Stable development requires an annual inflow of external financing in the amount of at least $50 billion, and today there is a serious backlog of the Turkish side in global competition for attracting foreign direct investment.

And Ankara expects that Beijing will be the source of this investment. And in China, seeing the real benefits of economic cooperation with Turkey, they do not object to that. Suffice it to say that the trade turnover between the two countries over the past 17 years has grown 21 (twenty-one) times. And the total value of contracts and joint projects 18 times.

As a result, today China is confidently in the top three trading partners of Ankara. In the coming years, the intentions of the parties to double the mutual trade turnover to 50 billion dollars look quite real.

Especially considering the fact that both Ankara and Beijing are more than seriously committed to the implementation of joint projects by the defence-industrial complexes (DIC) of their countries. 'Turkey and China have proved their technological and production capabilities in the field of defence to the world by launching a number of original projects in recent years. I am sure that our countries can cooperate in this area as well,' Erdogan wrote in his article for the Global Times, and in China they completely agree with this approach.

Well, where there is close cooperation and partnership in such a field as the defence industry complex, inevitably the question of cooperation is even more delicate in terms of security, which fully explains the presence of MIT head Hakan Fidan in Beijing as part of the Turkish delegation. He has something to talk about with his Chinese colleagues, at least about the militants of the 'Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement' - people from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, gaining combat experience in Syria.

And here we come to a very piquant topic. Only four months have passed since Ankara and Beijing exchanged very tough statements on the Uyghur issue. Then the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Hami Aksoy called on China to respect the rights of ethnic Uighurs and to close the camps for their forced holding. Throwing back diplomacy, he said that 'the fact that concentration camps reappeared in the 21st century is a shame for all of humanity.' He also said that 'more than a million Uighurs faced the policy of forced detention, torture and ideological treatment in prisons and concentration camps.'

Uighur camps in China

Foreign Ministry of the People's Republic of China then called Aksoy's speech 'disgusting.' An official protest followed and the Chinese Consulate General in Izmir was temporarily closed.

A lot of strange has been and remains in this story. But to finally close the topic, Erdogan yesterday at a meeting with Xi Jinping, according to Chinese media, stated the following: 'A happy life, prosperity and happiness of all peoples in Chinese Xinjiang is a fait accompli, the Turkish side will not allow anyone to stir up hostility between China and Turkey.'

It is quite possible that the official mass media of the People's Republic of China slightly edited the words of Erdogan, as is usual for them. But the fact that this issue is not a stumbling block for the development of close cooperation between Beijing and Ankara is quite obvious.

As a result, it can be said with confidence that the strategic partnership between Turkey and China is becoming ever closer and filled with concrete content. Erdogan once again confirmed his scale of a politician of the international level, because at the end of his visit to Beijing, a new geopolitical factor arose that other countries must take into account.

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