Cooperation with China in and Around its Global Mega Projects

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From this part of the world the new Chinese mega projects are regarded as new opportunities for the world, for Europe and the Middle East and for Turkey. The three-layered projects, include 64 countries and 15 ...

From this part of the world the new Chinese mega projects are regarded as new opportunities for the world, for Europe and the Middle East and for Turkey. The three-layered projects, include 64 countries and 15 Chinese provinces, and aim to connect China to the rest of the world through a. The economic corridor; b. The Silk Road economic belt and c. The maritime Silk Road.

The Central and South Asia, the East Mediterranean, the Balkans and the Eastern Europe take part within the spectrum of all those projects. The Belt & Road project, which has recently been recognized as one of the most important infrastructure and energy projects of all times by the USA as well, also touches Turkey with the “East Wind“[1], through its Middle Belt“. Therefore, it particularly concerns Turkey’s connectivity to the Balkans, the Eastern Europe and the Western Europe, as well as through the East Mediterranean.

China’s Approach to Turkey with Different Projects

1. In 2015 the Chinese state-owned shipping and logistics company COSCO Pacific, teaming up with China Merchants Holdings International and the CIC Capital acquired a majority stake in Turkey’s 3rd largest container terminal, Kumport. The consortium set deal as $ 940 million for 65 percent of the shares in Kumport’s owner and operator, Fina Liman, a subsidiary of Fiba Holding. The remaining 35 percent of the shares are owned by Oman sovereign fund, State General Reserve Fund (SGRF), which invested in the port in 2011. Located on the European coast of Istanbul, the terminal will handle 1.3 million T.E.U. [2](annually, accounting for 16 percent of the container traffic of the country’s total. It is the largest foreign direct investment from China to Turkey so far, and the stake acquisition deal will give the Chinese a critical foothold on a strategic trade route and a vital node on the Chinese government’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, which is a modern interpretation of the ancient ‘Silk Road’.

2. Turkey, the leading producer of boron ore in the world. China, Eastern Europe, and lndia are favorable areas for increased borates consumption because of their growing economies. For that reason since 2010 China has been offering lucrative investment deals to Nigde province of Turkey with employment and guaranteed export opportunities.

3. Aside from its major investment project in the Nigde province, which originally promised 15.000 jobs for the locals and the Kumport project in Istanbul as part of the Maritime Silk Road project, the Chinese smart phone giant ZTE already bought 48.8 percent of Turkish Telekom.

4. Additionally, the largest bank in China (and the world), the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), acquired Turkish Textile Bank in May 2015. Other investments are likely to follow in cooperation with AKBANK and Halk Bank, as well as Cengiz Holding, the Limak and Kolin group, and Çalık Holding are in on-going discussions with investors in China.
The ICBC brokered an agreement between the Turkish and Chinese central banks to use Turkish lira and Chinese Yuan instead of dollars and Euros. Already, 450 million Turkish lira worth of currency swaps were exchanged in the month of December.

5. Chinese companies have already invested $18.7 billion in Turkey over the past ten years. For that The Turkey has upgraded its investment visa system(Golden visa) to offer a wide spectrum of enticing factors, granting full residency for high net worth individuals (HNWIs) who invest $1 million to $3 million in either real estate, shares in Turkish companies or government bonds, and maintain that investment for three years. This recent move by the Turkish government is expected to lead to a rise in demand from Chinese property investors particularly in Istanbul and in its Mediterranean cost

6. Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) is also expected to increase markedly in the coming years. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Chinese FDI in Turkey in 2016 alone reached $642.3 million. That’s likely to expand as China begins work on infrastructure projects.

7. The state-owned “Turkish State Railways plans to allocate nearly $45 billion to create 10,000 kilometers of new high-speed railways and 4,000 kilometers of new conventional line by 2023(China-Turkey-London rail)[3]. Most of the railway will be built by Chinese companies“. This new high-speed train line from the city of Edirne near the Greek-Bulgarian border to the Asian-side city of Kars, which borders Armenia, will enable the west and east of Turkey to be connected for the first time.

8. There are also several other projects from the third nuclear power plant of Turkey to the Dardanelles bridge.

9. As of 2016 786 Chinese companies registered in Turkey operating in different sectors.

Parts of the Chinese Belt & Road Project that Interest Turkey Most

1. Turkey is particularly interested in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which seems to be the only part of the mega project, which aims to connect the region through ports in Sri Lanka, a potential railway from Nepal’s capital Kathmandu to Lhasa in Tibet and the nascent Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC).

Pakistan, which is named as its “Iron Brother“ by China, seems to set the mood for Turkey, because Turkey also considers Pakistan as “brother“ and wishes it to prosper fast in security. CPEC proposes to connect the Chinese city of Kashgar with the deep-water port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea through a network of roads and railways. The plan also includes numerous energy projects and free trade zones. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the deal in Islamabad in April 2015, the CPEC has moved quickly into the implementation phase, and its first projects will reach completion this year or the next. For your Iron brother to benefit from this mega project it needs to have political stability domestically to free itself from the Taliban radicalism, and regionally to make peace with India over Cashmere. Turkey is willing to cooperate and support the Chinese effort of peace- making on the roof of the world.

2. Turkey is also paying attention to the part of the same project, to which China has earmarked a $2.5 billion for the natural gas pipeline to Iran as an extension of the energy infrastructure. Iran needs up grading of its natural gas and oil infrastructures; Turkey being one of Iran’s important trade partners is likely to be one of the main beneficiaries of this project and therefore whole heartedly supports it.

3. Turkey looks forward to see normalized relations between China and its Xinjiang province. And sees the ambitious Belt & Road Initiative to extend its new inroad connections to the province, while building roads to South Asia. Turkey sees and supports this initiative as an opportunity to establish new security and economic connections with neighboring South Asian countries as well as with its Xinjiang province. Any venue of cooperation Turkey can take part in, it definitely will.

4. Turkey is very much interested in the Silk-Road project which connects China not only to the Balkans, but also to the Eastern and the Western Europe. Indeed among the 6 main corridors of the Belt Road project of yours, the European connection matters most for connectivity, peace and prosperity. The Chinese objective of greater integration throughout Eurasia with its Belt and Road scheme, which has so far emphasized bilateral or sub regional agreements with states in the Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Mediterranean may be a cause of concern of the EU. But Turkey is fully supportive of the project, closely follows its progress and takes pride in connecting to it, when the Turkish fast rail and port systems are completed.

5. China's collaboration with states in Central and Eastern Europe, which started a sub regional platform, the so-called CEE 16+1, in 2012 for participants in its Belt and Road Initiative projects, must mainly be a concern of the EU and the Russian Federation. But Turkey is mainly interested in the upgrading of the transport infrastructure in Eastern European countries, because of its commercial interests.

6. Turkey shows avid interest in the progress of the Maritime-Silk Road and views Chinese effort to have ports in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and mainly pays particular attention to the Chinese port activities in Greece. Alongside with all other port projects in countries along the Mediterranean to offer alternatives to Northern European ports such as Rotterdam and Antwerp, what the Greek port of Piraeus may promise to China in terms of maritime trade urges Turkey to take necessary measures to cooperate with China in its Aegean and the Mediterranean ports. Turkey is fully aware of the fact that as the first major container port in the Mediterranean Sea, Piraeus offers Chinese companies delivery times that are 10 days shorter than routes to Northern European ports. How Kumport will complement the level of efficiency of the Belt & Road project is currently what Turkey must be concentrating on.

7. In Africa Turkey may cooperate and coordinate the economic activities of China. However, currently it is only trying to fill the vacuum China leaves as it concentrates its effort on the Belt & Road project and only remains in the natural resources sectors of the African countries.


In Conclusion
  1. Turkey welcomes all projects China offers to the world and to itself with global vision, engineering services, and materials, joint venture opportunities and partnership that extends to embrace more peaceful solutions to the global order through rational decision –making processes in trade and investment.
  1. Turkey wishes to take part in every possible project that offers win-win opportunities to Turkey and China at bilateral levels.
  1. When the “East Wind“, for the first time left Yiwu with its 34 cars last January (2017), Turkey held its breath with admiration. Turkey followed from a distance its 4700km-long journey passing through 8 European cities to reach the East of London (its 15th and the last stop). The 16-day journey seemed inspirational to all, beyond being incredible, when the train[4] delivered competitive Chinese products to European destinations, and picked all sorts of special merchandise from where ever it stopped to reward the Chinese consumers back home. Despite the existing inequalities, if the emerging Nuevo rich consumers in China prefer German beer, Parma Bacon, French and Spanish cheeses, Turkey must find ways to penetrate the vast Chinese markets with products and delicacies at compatible prices and higher quality.
  1. This is the only way Turkey can overcome the problem of large trade deficit[5] it has been running against China over many years. Otherwise even though Turkey may take part in the fascinating global Belt & Road project, it may not have viable and sustainable trade relations with China for a foreseeable future. Neither could it benefit from the currency swap system, which allows the Turkish and the Chinese traders to trade in Turkish Lira and Yuan instead of any other international currencies. However, Turkish traders report that their Chinese counterparts prefer international currencies in transactions. So do the Turkish traders, except for the small and medium sized traders.
  1. The European Union claims that China appears to be undermining EU trade and investment standards. Despite the fact that Turkey has been a disappointed member of the EU Customs Union, it still sees benefits from the implementation of the EU standards in infrastructure and transport policies to be followed by China.

[1] TRACECA(Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus Asia), which passes from the East of the Caspian Sea, visiting Turkmenistan, Kazakistan,Uzbekistan, Kyrgizistan and Tacikistan on the way, entering Afganistan, stopping int Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria before entering Western European Centers.
[2] Twety feet Equivalent Unit
[3] The aggrement between the two countries was signed in September 2016. But not yet ratified by the Turkish Parliament .
[4] The highly ambitious train claims to be “faster than maritime, cheaper than air routes
[5] As of 2015 Turkey’s imports from China was $25billion, while its export remained at a modest level of $2.5 billion, amounting to $28 billion worth of trade volume.
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