Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sino-Turkish relations in the Belt and Road era By Einar Tangen and Deniz C. Ozensoy, March 22, 2017

As the traditional termini of the Silk Road, China and Turkey, have much potential for cooperation. In regard to national prosperity, they share the same perspective: Trade brings prosperity, which is why Turkey is an enthusiastic partner in the new Belt and Road Initiative.  From Turkey's perspective, China is already a significant trade partner, ranking in the top 10 with regard to imports. Similarly, Chinese companies have been investing in various infrastructure projects such as major ports. Even though Turkey is only a minor trade and tourism partner -- less than 2 percent of Chinese exports reaching Turkey -- geographically it is a major geo-economical partner, providing secure land and sea access to the European economic sphere.  Despite the favorable economic climate and strong desire to improve trade ties, Turkey presents several unique challenges to Chinese investors, such as political unrest, cultural and religious differences and disparate perspectives on international politics.  In 2015, meeting a representative of a Chinese railway company at a workshop in Beijing on investment in high speed railways, valued at several billion dollars, one of the writers was told the biggest risk in the industry was political risk -- a host government unilaterally cancelling a deal. However, Turkey's president, in seeking closer collaboration with China through a number of agencies such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, has been following pro-China politics as best as he can.