The Turkish Ambassador in Beijing welcomed the improving relations with China, saying 2018 has been a "year of records" in terms of official visits as well as Chinese tourists visiting Turkey.
Reviewing the bilateral ties in the fields of diplomacy, tourism and culture, Abdulkadir Emin Önen told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the ties have gained momentum in 2018 and over 1,000 bilateral talks between Turkish and Chinese officials were held in the past year.
"2018 has been a year of records in China-Turkey relations... in terms of both high-level visits and the number of activities in total. It has also been a year of records in terms of the number of tourists," he said. Önen voiced his hope that 2019 would be "a year that we will break these records, see more Chinese [tourists] in Turkey and sign more bilateral agreements." "One of our most important targets is for China to pay a state visit to Turkey," he added.
The Turkish envoy praised the efforts made to promote Turkey in China through media and social media platforms, like WeChat and Weibo. "When we look at the platforms we used over the past year, we see that we've reached around 3-3.5 million people. In this way, we think we've substantially contributed to the promotion of Turkey," he said.
Well-known social media influencers, senior journalists and individuals in China were sent to Turkey as part of the efforts to promote the country, he added.
"It is expected that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Turkey will reach 400,000 [in 2019], but our target is 1 million." Önen underscored the importance of boosting the number of airlines flying to Turkey. "China Southern Airlines started operating flights to Turkey last December and Sichuan Airlines will start flying to Turkey this year. Onur Air will also add flights to Chengdu from Istanbul."
In regards to commercial ties, he said the trade volume between the two countries is now at around 30 billion but should be at least 50 billion.
Önen called on Turkish businessmen to do business in China "and hold meetings focusing on increasing Turkish exports to the country."
He added that the interest in Turkey and the Turkish language has increased at Chinese universities, while new Turkish departments and research centers were also established. "Our biggest desire in 2019 is to bring the two nations closer and increase bilateral meetings," the ambassador said.