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Valuable friend, vital partner


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the Republic of Turkey and the People's Republic of China. We are pleased to see that the strategic cooperative relations between our countries are being strengthened in spite of the unprecedented setbacks caused by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

A friend in need is a friend indeed, as the saying goes, and the millenia-old Turkish-Chinese friendship has proved its worth when Turkey became one of the first countries to lend a helping hand and send much-needed medical supplies to China when it was struggling to fight the novel coronavirus in Wuhan in early 2020. When the pandemic eventually took hold in Turkey, China responded in kind and contributed generously to Turkey's fight against COVID-19.

The latest demonstration of this special solidarity is being witnessed in the area of vaccine cooperation. Turkey's ongoing procurement of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine has been a key component of our efforts to achieve the collective immunization of our people. Moreover, President Recep Tayyip Erdo an was among the first world leaders to get inoculated with a Chinese-produced vaccine so as to encourage people to get vaccinated and impart a message of trust in the face of the attempts to politicize what should solely be a matter of global healthcare cooperation against the pandemic.

High-level dialogue is indispensable for enhancing a bilateral partnership. Therefore, we welcomed Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Turkey in late March, where both parties had the opportunity to review every aspect of their relations. This was the first visit by the Chinese foreign minister to Turkey in the last five years and we sincerely hope that the dialogue between the foreign ministers of the two countries will be more frequent from this point onwards. Similarly, there has not been a State visit from China to Turkey for the last 20 years and we hope to make up for this by hosting President Xi Jinping in Turkey at the earliest convenience. There are many regional and global developments which require Turkey and China to remain in regular and close contact at the highest level. Our countries share a similar approach to maintaining a rules-based, multilateral global trade system that will ensure fairer terms for developing countries. Turkey is ready to strengthen dialogue with China in this respect.

The high-level consensus achieved between President Erdo an and President Xi during the former's visit to Beijing in July 2019 reflects the mutual determination to create a balanced, win-win economic relationship that will lower Turkey's trade deficit with China and encourage more Chinese investments in Turkey. Turkey and China were the only two G20 countries that managed to maintain positive economic growth in 2020. This fact, combined with Turkey's commitment to become a $1 trillion economy by the centennial anniversary in 2023 of the founding of the Republic and China's goal to continue opening up its economy to the wider world, will hopefully allow us to increase our wide-range of exports to China and to host more Chinese enterprises in Turkey.

A second area where there is much untapped potential is cultural and tourism cooperation. We will be opening Yunus Emre Turkish Cultural Center in Beijing in May 2021. We believe that this center will carry the mutual understanding between our peoples to a higher level.

Furthermore, there was a positive sign of strengthening tourism cooperation before the pandemic, as the number of Chinese tourists visiting Turkey continued to rise and reached a record level of 565,000 in 2019. Once the pandemic restrictions ease, we would like to see all the direct flights resume and aim to add new destinations to our civil aviation portfolio. Turkey is putting a lot of effort into reviving international travel by implementing safe travel practices and creating Chinese-friendly airports, museums and tourist attractions in order to realize our medium-term target of hosting 1 million Chinese guests.

Another area that offers good opportunities for Turkish-Chinese partnership is the harmonization of Turkey's Middle Corridor and China's Belt and Road Initiative. Both countries share a similar outlook of ambitious connectivity projects that aim at the economic and logistic integration of the vast Eurasian landmass. We sincerely believe that this component of our relations has great potential to contribute to stability and prosperity in our respective regions.

In addition to the Middle Corridor, Turkey's "Asia Anew" initiative, launched in 2019, rests on a positive assessment of the opportunities offered by the rise of the Asian continent as a center of rapid economic and social transformation. In this respect, we consider China a valuable friend and a vital partner in intensifying multilateral cooperation across Asia.

I would like to underline that the guiding principle of Turkey's humanitarian and enterprising foreign policy is to pursue amicable relations with every member of the international community. This is also the foundation of our commitment to work closely with China on the most pressing issues of the world. Despite all the hardships caused by the pandemic, we are ready to celebrate the semi-centennial anniversary of our diplomatic ties and determined to deepen Turkish-Chinese strategic cooperation across the board.

The author is the Turkish ambassador to China. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.