Crucial Visit: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is going to visit Turkey

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turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will pay a visit to Turkey on March 25, 2021. It has stated that bilateral relations, regional issues and issues related to Eurasia as well as the fight against Covid-19 will be tackled within the scope of the visit. Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to Turkey on March 18-19, 2021 is remarkable date due to the fact that it will be held immediately following the meeting with US representatives.

In this context, Ankara Crisis and Political Studies Center (ANKASAM) going to present opinions and evaluations of leading experts and academicians in the field regarding Wang Yi’s visit to Turkey in terms of its significance and reflections on the relations between the two countries.

Cenk TAMER (ANKASAM Asia-Pacific Expert)

ANKASAM Asia-Pacific Expert Cenk Tamer stated that the visit can be read in different ways, “First of all, I think this visit can be interpreted as a reflection of the competition between the United States of America (USA) and China. This visit also affirmed that Turkey has an important role in the Asia-Pacific region. The impacts of the global war launched by the USA against China, through discourse of human rights and democracy, are spreading all over the world. Especially the Anglo-Saxon World, which includes Britain, USA, Canada and Australia, started to censure China over the ‘genocide’ allegations. Thus, Beijing is concerned that this campaign will spread to the rest of the world. Consequentially, Wang Yi’s visit to Turkey can also be addressed in this context.”

In the continuation of his words, Tamer said that “Because the recent visits of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Japan and South Korea increased China’s fears of ‘containment’. Beijing considers the policies criticized and alleged to violate human rights, as vital for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and general national security of the country. On the other hand, a significant part of China’s economic corridors opening to the global trade is passing through autonomous regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet. In short, China has bear proactive diplomacy to overcome this global threat related to national security, and the first stop is Turkey on this issue.”

The second most important issue in the context of Wang Yi’s visit is the projects which are implemented in the frame of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and that cooperation with Turkey on this issue, as Tamer stated, “Turkey undertakes a strategic role in extending the China’s economic corridor to Europe. China attaches great importance to the place of the Central Corridor which includes Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey for the revival of the historic Silk Road. Last week, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan drew attention to the importance of the Central Corridor includes Caspian Sea and pointed to the cooperation China has made with Turkey. Also, in December 2020, Turkey’s exports reached to China as first time over this corridor encompassed by Belt and Road Initiative marked as a major success of the Turkey-China cooperation.”

On the other hand, Tamer said that the southern route, which is going to connect Turkey with China, is increasingly gaining emphasis, “In this context, the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad Railway Line Project has recently been accelerated. China achieves to reach Iran through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and from there connect with Turkey. At this point, Beijing’s goal of reaching the Mediterranean via Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria line pursued. However, both the difficulties in infrastructure and investments in Pakistan and the continuing instability in Iraq and Syria have led China to alternative routes. Therefore, Beijing, concentrate on the Central Corridor encompassing Caspian Sea and southern route of Pakistan-Iran-Turkey.”

Finally, Tamer made a broad evaluation to put an end to his arguments, “Turkey’s strategic importance in China’s economic projects is gradually increasing. Wang Yi’s visit to Turkey is the most important reflection of it. China concentrate on Turkey with Belt and Road Projects waged in the regions of Mediterranean, Asia and Eurasia. Turkey seized the opportunity of take an action to fill the power vacuum in Eurasia through taking along the China’s economic power. Turkey is not only in Mediterranean, Caucasia, Central Asia anymore; but in a broader sense, start to appear as a ‘strategic actor’ in Eurasia.”

Asst. Prof. Ümit ALPEREN (Süleyman Demirel University – International Relations)

Asst. Prof. Ümit Alperen stating that Turkey-China relations developed in all areas after the coup attempt dated July 15, 2016, “There was no high-level visit by China to Turkey took place for a time. However, the reason was not political nor economic; it was the serious interruption that pandemic cause on face-to-face meetings. Turkey attached great importance to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. As it known, following the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the establishment of new transportation corridors in the region is added to agenda. The establishment of these corridors bypass Iran’s. Consequentially, this prospective of Turkey attain the means of route leads China through Azerbaijani and Central Asia, caused disturbance in Iran. Because the Tehran administration often made trouble in Ankara’s trade to Central Asia. Therefore, strengthening of the transportation corridors that connect to Central Asia after the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War conduces; Turkey’s increasing influence in the region, intensification of Ankara-Beijing relations and the increasing importance of Ankara, in the eyes of Beijing.”

Alperen stressed the rising economic influence of Turkey in Central Asia is closely monitored by China, “Recently, Cavusoglu visited Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Also, Ankara, highlighted within the scope of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) that; strengthening the relations between Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and increasing the trade cooperation and constructing a transportation route. This is remarkable because through the route Turkey will gain access to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region from the south part. In the case of constructing the routes in partnership with China, provide more effective processing for Belt and Road.”

Reminding another principal issue to be discussed is the vaccine, Alperen explained, “Ankara provides vaccine supply from Beijing. Therefore, the most prominent topic in the agenda will be vaccine. Withal, China alleged to be one of the investors of the second nuclear power plant which Turkey plans to construct in Trakya, although not broadly tackled by media. In spite of issue is in its very early stages, it can be consulted.”

Ferhan ORAL (Retired Navy Captain)

Retired Navy Captain Ferhan Oral made a statement before the Wang Yi’s visit, related to meeting with the representatives of USA, “The Spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked about the reason for Wang Yi’s visit to the USA on March 18-19, 2021 and the topics to be discussed. In his reply, the Ministry Spokesperson declared that the invitation was made by the USA, that their own attitude towards the US-China relations was clear, that the USA should abandon the Cold War era and zero-sum game mentality and China’s sovereignty and security should be respected.”

Oral made his comment as following, “Wang Yi’s visit to the USA can be regarded as Biden’s effort to improve conditions and soften relations, particularly after Trump’s accusations against China due to the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as other issues during the period of US Former President Donald Trump. As deduced from the aforementioned statement, the basic framework of the visit will be the issue of mutual non-intervention in domestic issues disturbed by China and the Uyghur Issue, which the United States has frequently voiced.”

Referring to the geopolitical dimension of the relations between Washington and Beijing, Oral said, “In the vision of foreign policy strategy that Blinken announced on March 3, 2021, China was described as the most important competitor faced by the USA and the Asia-Pacific defined as the geopolitical struggle arena of these rivals. Undoubtedly, the USA’s announcement that ‘will cooperate as much as possible and compete if necessary’ can be interpreted as a preliminary signal regarding the visit.”

Oral stated that Chinese Foreign Minister is coming to Turkey in the immediate aftermath of the US visit may best describe as ‘meaningful’ and he add, “I believe the most important reason for the visit will constitute of economic issues. Because, May 3, 2021 will be the day of trial of Halkbank case held and Turkey estimated to be fined about 10 billion dollars. Its repercussions on the Turkish economy, may bring Turkey, who do not want to get into debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to a closer economic axis with China and pave the way for more intense cooperation in the field. Therefore, although the meeting will be held between the foreign ministers, I think this may be a message to be conveyed to

the Beijing administration.”

Finally, Oral concludes, “Cavusoglu, elucidate the topics to be discussed as; bilateral relations, issues concerning Eurasia, regional issues and the fight against Covid-19. In this context, I think that the situation of Sinovac vaccines ordered from China but not sent yet will be also brought to agenda. In addition, the F-35s, which are not an alternative for our TCD ANATOLIAN docked landing ship which will be put into service towards the end of the year, it is possible that Chinese planes are also on the agenda alongside with Russian alternatives although they are not among the topic that are announced to be discussed.”

Ahmet Bülent MERİÇ (Retired Ambassador)

In his statement on the subject Retired Ambassador Ahmet Bülent Meriç, “Wang Yi’s visit to Turkey on March 25, 2021 following his visit to the USA has announced. According to Cavusoglu’s statement, besides bilateral relations, global issues such as the fight against Covid-19, regional problems of both states and issues concerning Eurasia are incorporated to the agenda of the visit.”

Meriç pointed out to Chinese Foreign Minister’s forthcoming visit to Turkey planned immediate after meetings held with US representatives, “It is obvious that visits organized with the aim of bearing a message for two ally of Western axis, who have serious conflicts and located in different geographies.”

Stating that Wang Yi’s visit to Washington will not be comfortable, Meriç continue, “The contention between these two states, who implement policies on a global scale, have gradually increase; the containment policy implemented by the USA against China since the Obama era has recently led to a ‘Cold War’ environment, it is seen that the trade wars initiated during the Trump era disrupted the symmetry of the interdependence between the two leading economic powers. Moreover, it was signaled that these policies presumably continue throughout Biden period. Thus, White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki has announced that they will discuss the ‘genocide’ against Uyghur

Turks during the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister. It is predictable that the Hong Kong Issue, Taiwan Issue and China’s activities in the East and South China Seas will also be added to the list.”

Meriç said, “The real problem is that the game is no longer zero-sum. China’s peaceful rise threatens the US global domination. China, which can now be defined as a semi-global power, aims to become a global power like the USA. On the one hand the Belt and Road Initiative; on the other hand, by strengthening its control in international organizations established by the USA after the Second World War or by creating alternative organizations. To this end, he uses his soft power, develops his armed forces, and speaks out in the problems he sees as historical rights. Profoundly, it can be argued that the problem lies between the capitalist free market economy, which is constantly experiencing crises and the socialist free market model represented by China.”

Stating that it is currently uncertain whether China, whose strategic vision has been reviewed, will adopt the imperialist ‘Middle Kingdom Logic’ over time, Meriç add, “What have been received and reviewed by Ankara is, China propose a friendly hand to Turkey for assistance. On the other side, Turkey did not procure empathy from its Western partners and beleaguered by its allies in Southern borders and Eastern Mediterranean. In the environment of fighting against Covid-19, where vaccine wars are taking place in the Western World, China’s regular supply of vaccines to the Turkish community is a memorable demonstration of friendship.”

Meriç finalize his words, “Turkey today and will be able to exhibit exemplary cooperation with China. Turkey contributes to construction of Eurasia’s Middle Corridor alongside with China.  Thus, through the New Silk Road, which will reduce the dependence of two countries to the sea route, Turkey will take the short cut possible to the rich markets of the Asia-Pacific.”

Gökhun GÖÇMEN (Journalist)

Journalist Gökhun Göçmen argued there are several points rendering Wang Yi’s visit substantial “The first one is the timing of the visit. Because the visit coincide with 50th year of diplomatic relations between Turkey and China. Both countries are preparing to open a new page in many fields, especially in the economy, in this historical moment when the relations get through half a century. Increasing trade volume between China and Turkey are already reflected in the railways. Moreover, it is observed that Ankara, which announced the ‘Asia Anew Initiative’, is not just a participant of the Belt and Road Initiative recently; also he is preparing to become a game-maker. The most recent example is the establishment of Turkey-Iran-Pakistan Railway Line. In the upcoming days, it will not be a surprise that if railway line will be associated with the Belt-Road Project. At the same time, the preparation of a bill in the Turkish Grand National Assembly last week that will facilitate trade with China, this also reflects the determination of the parties on furthering trade relations.”

Another issue that makes the timing of the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit important is that it coincides with a critical time of combating against the pandemic, Göçmen said, “Erdoğan stated that 50 million doses of vaccine could come from China. Foreign Minister Cavusoglu and his Chinese counterpart will of course discuss how this process will work.”

Göçmen emphasized Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit right after meetings held with the USA points out, Beijing also attain great prominence to this visit, continued, “After all, Turkey and China are two countries who have profound disagreements with the USA and in mutual need to each other. China expected to become greatest economic power in the short-term and overthrown Washington’s technological and military superiority in medium-term. Firm relations that will established with China, give much more leverage to Turkey against the USA. Similarly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of China will pay particular attention to Ankara, who is a regional game-maker, is located at the crossroads of international trade and has a considerable reputation over the Turkish and Muslim World. In this context, it is remarkable that Turkey avoid that this recent influence on the Muslim world turn out to become a part of rivalry between the USA and China. I think Turkey will maintain this course afterwards.”

Özge Eletek 1999 yılında İzmir’de doğdu. İlk ve orta öğretim hayatını İzmir’de tamamlayan Eletek, 2017 yılında Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nü kazandı. Çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında birçok konferans ve seminere katılan Eletek, Ankara Kriz ve Siyaset Araştırmaları Merkezi’ndeki stajını sürdürmektedir.