By Zuhal Demirci
ANKARA (AA) – As Turkey and China are all set to mark 50 years of their diplomatic ties, both countries' relations are going to deepen further in the coming period, the Turkish ambassador in Beijing said on Saturday.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Abdulkadir Emin Onen commented on countries' political, commercial and cultural relations along with the latest developments in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Onen said the virus outbreak proved the importance of international cooperation, solidarity, health infrastructure, supply chains and strong state structure, and it helped strengthen dialogue between Turkish and Chinese health ministries.
The arrival of the first batch of China’s Sinovac vaccine in late 2020 took their cooperation in the health field to the next level, said the ambassador, according to whom new batches of vaccine were expected to arrive in Turkey in the coming period.
– Asia rising again
Onen said Asia, once again, was becoming the economic and political center of the world and China was one of the focal countries of Ankara's "Asia Anew" initiative.
Stressing that both countries are rising at the regional and global level, he said China was projected to be the world’s largest economy by 2035, whereas Turkey was expected to be within the top five, therefore officials of the two countries took steps aimed at planning the future.
The envoy went on to say that the first export train of Turkey, which traveled to China in December, brought Turkish exporters one step closer to a market of $2 trillion. Furthermore, he said, the revival of the Silk Road offered great opportunities, and export trains almost made China a neighbor of Turkey.
With wagon trains and cargo planes, Turkey is planning to have more presence in Asia, especially in China, at a time when global supply chains are reshaped amid the pandemic, according to the ambassador.
While 2019 figures for Turkey's food and agricultural product exports to China rose by 62.5%, corresponding to $225.4 million, the upward trend was likely to continue in 2020 despite the pandemic, the ambassador said, adding his country was planning to increase the export to $1 billion.
Currently, both sides' trade volume is over $21 billion and China is one of Turkey's three top trade partners, however, the balance is in favor of China and Turkey has to draw direct Chinese investments to its territory in order to narrow its trade deficit, he noted.
Also, the ambassador stated that Chinese investments in Turkey since 2002 were $1.8 billion, much less than the potential, and they could increase their trade volume and mutual investments thanks to good planning and cooperation based on sincerity and determination through a period of five years.
– Importance of e-commerce
Noting that China had 850 million digital users and a middle class of 400 million people with an annual income of $20,000, the Turkish official said e-commerce was becoming more and more important given the Chinese community's rapidly changing habits of consumption.
He further noted that the COVID-19 outbreak had a positive impact on online shopping activities, and presence of high-quality Turkish products on such platforms would mean direct interaction with the Chinese community.
The ambassador said the welfare and peace of Turkic and Muslim people in China's Xinjiang autonomous region and preservation of their cultural identity were among agenda items of the Turkish foreign policy with China.
Onen said Uighurs were bridging the western and eastern edges of the Silk Road and noted that he expected them to positively contribute to relations with China whose territorial integrity and "One China" policy is supported by Turkey.
On the other hand, Turkey follows situation in the autonomous region in line with international law and by using diplomatic tools while notifying Chinese authorities about Turkey's sensitivity and expectations.
Turkey and China are going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties and authorities were preparing activities to boost countries' cultural, touristic, art, economic and sports relations, Onen said.
According to him, Turkey aims to draw about a million Chinee tourists in the coming period once the COVID-19 outbreak loses momentum.
Onen noted a Turkish movie — Miracle in Cell No. 7 — nominated for Oscar awards was released in China and more than half a million watched the movie despite the pandemic and its rating is 9.3 out of 10 on Douban, a Chinese social network.