As Bridge Between East and West, Turkiye Can Play Vital Role in BRI

On Wednesday 26 July 2023, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Ankara for an official visit. The visit took place less than 48 hours after Qin Gang was removed from office due to ‘misconduct’ and Wang Yi was re-appointed back as Foreign Minister, a position he has previously held before being promoted to head the Foreign Affairs Commission.

In addition to a meeting with his counterpart Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Wang Yi had the opportunity to meet President Recep Erdogan. In 2019, Erdogan and Wang Yi met in Beijing in the context of the 50 years of diplomatic relations between Turkiye and China.

The trip happened while dozens of Chinese companies were participating in the International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF) 2023 in Istanbul. At the same time, Turkiye is facing an economic crisis with its currency significantly depreciated.

Therefore, Ankara appears eager to strengthen cooperation with Beijing, especially in the economic field. To that effect, Ankara has even toned down its criticism of China’s alleged mistreatment of the Uyghurs. According to a Turkish source, both sides explored reinforcing cooperation in the areas of agriculture, civil aviation and nuclear energy.

Furthermore, both sides discussed the “harmonization of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Middle Corridor through Turkey.” Due to its geographic location, Turkiye has historically acted as a natural bridge between the cultures and peoples of the East and West. With the war raging between Ukraine and Russia, the Middle Corridor presents an alternative route for Eurasian #connectivity.

Middle Corridor to Enhance Eurasian Connectivity

As a country with rich cultural heritage at the confluence of civilizations, Turkiye is an attractive tourist destination and seeks to attract more Chinese tourists in the future. Prior to the COVID pandemic, the number of Chinese tourists to Turkiye reached 560,000. However, the Turkish ambassador to China, Ismail Musa indicated that this number is well below the real potential and would very much like to see a surge in Chinese tourists, now that the pandemic is over.

Both sides also exchanged views on bilateral, regional and global issues of common interest. In particular, Turkiye expressed concern about possible expansion of NATO eastwards. Both sides agree that the Ukraine-Russia conflict should be resolved via dialogue and negotiation.

In October 2023, China is hosting the #BRI Summit in Beijing and is thus making the rounds to invite countries around the world to attend. Prior to visiting Turkey, Wang Yi was in South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia.