Andrew | July 01, 2015


Turkey and China are two ancient civilizations with historic links in blood-line, trade, and strategic thinking. At the beginning of the 21st century, both countries are at the crossroads of an epochal shift of world gravitas from the West to the East and from the advanced to the developing countries. China is set to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy probably within this decade. Under President Xi Jinping, the country is pursuing a China Dream of renaissance in the coming years, harking back to China’s glorious past. This resonates well with Turkey’s ambition to achieve a similar goal by the hundredth anniversary of Ataturk in 2023. The horizon for cooperation is full of exciting possibilities, including high-speed rail from China’s industrial seaboard passing through Turkey to the seaports in Western Europe; a customs-free expressway from the Western border of China through Kazakhstan and Belarus to Amsterdam; linking the Bosphorus to China’s world-leading container ports; investments in telecommunications and mining in the Central Asia region; partnership in a host of African “special economic zones” being managed by China; and capitalizing on the internationalization of the RMB, the Chinese yuan, to grow Istanbul to a world-class financial centre. In the light of these and other opportunities, there is no reason why areas of possible divergence between the two countries cannot be adequately managed. These include Turkey’s cultural links with the Uyghur “separatists” in China’s Xinjiang Province, membership of U.S- dominated North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and different approaches to international conflicts such as Syria. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in which China is playing a leading part, may be a strategic theatre where Turkey-China cooperation may be enhanced and their differences minimized. In short, as the tide of history is rapidly turning, Turkey and China are likely to find themselves as serendipitous partners on a New Silk Road to Renaissance in the coming decades.

Key Words : Silk Road, Renaissance, China Dream, Eurasian high speed rail, Kazakhstan-Belarus expressway, Bosphorus, Istanbul financial centre, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Uyghurs, NATO.

Swing of history’s pendulum
Until the late nineteen century, the world’s economy and political power was dominated by the Middle Kingdom, the Ottoman Empire and India. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), for example, China’s economy was the richest in the world both in aggregate and in per capita terms. During 1405 – 1433, Admiral Zheng He, a Muslim eunuch, set sail seven times with a gigantic fleet of over 300 massive ships and 28,000 crewmen to spread China’s culture and trade over the oceans to distant shores. The Ottoman Empire witnessed a similarly glorious chapter in its history. However, as from the nineteenth century, both the Middle Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire faced a terminal decline when the West’s Industrial Revolution completely tipped the balance.
Now hegemony and empires have no place in a multi-polar world. But history’s pendulum is swinging the other way. According to research by BBVA, a Spanish bank, the EAGLEs (Emerging and Growth Leading Economies, including Turkey) and NEST countries (upcoming-EAGLEs) are together expected to contribute 68% to world growth between 2012-2022. China and India are each expected to contribute a higher share than the U.S. The G7 economies together will add a mere 16% (1). Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2050, the six EAGLEs combined economic weight, what may be called the E6, would be over two and half times more than the economies of US, Japan, United Kingdom and Germany combined.

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