By Roie Yellinek
The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 576, September 1, 2017
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The volume of trade between China and Turkey grew significantly in the first decade of this century. The countries’ relationship is now strengthening further, reflecting Turkey’s interest in participating in the BRI and the Chinese leadership’s struggles with its Uyghur minority. Judging from recent declarations, it appears the relationship will hold up, as neither side has viable alternatives to this alliance.
Relations between China and Turkey have always had their ups and downs. When they established diplomatic relations in 1971, they made no effort to establish a deeper relationship. In the last decade of the 20th century, relations improved, and there was even the start of limited military cooperation.
In the first fifteen years of the current century, the volume of trade between the countries grew significantly, from $1 billion in 2000 to roughly $30 billion in 2015. The countries are now experiencing a further strengthening of relations, reflecting Turkey’s interest in participating in the BRI (Belt & Road Initiative) and the Chinese leadership’s struggles with its Uyghur minority.
On August 3, 2017, the two countries’ foreign ministers, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Wang Yi, met in Beijing to discuss relations. At the end of the meeting, the Turkish minister stated that the Turkish government will refrain from publishing anything that could be interpreted as anti-Chinese in the Turkish media, claiming that China’s security relies on Turkey’s. The particular subject under discussion was newspaper articles about China’s Uyghur population.