The five Turkic states that became independent with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – along with Turkey represent the Turkic world. Together they host a population of 145 million people and represent invaluable sociocultural, historical and economic potential thanks to their locations on ancient trade routes that connected the East with the West and the Asia-Pacific region to the Atlantic.
This group of Turkic states is a center of gravity in regional commerce and diplomacy. Therefore, they are on the brink of taking steps that will further strengthen the Turkic bond through economic and trade diplomacy – turning new global trends into a win-win relationship for all six countries.
Rapidly adding the other four countries to the deepening strategic cooperation with Azerbaijan, in the fields of energy and transportation, points to an important opportunity that can shape a strong Turkic world on a global scale.
Organized by the Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE), the Turkish Historical Society (TTK) and the Azerbaijan Amie History Institute, the "Caucasus: Past, Present and the Future" congress in Azerbaijan's capital Baku recently addressed some of these questions.
The congress said that African countries that share a close relationship with Turkey preferred dealing directly with Ankara, instead of primarily depending on China, for development and investment. Similarly, the other five Turkic republics, Azerbaijan in particular, also requested that Ankara engage in more direct collaboration, beyond the current process that depends solely on Russia.
In fact, more emphasis on the cooperation between Turkey and the five Turkic states, especially in the fields of science, culture and education as well as more emphasis on the former's own economic and trade relations would certainly strengthen its hand in planning for the next 25 to 50 years.
Cooperation with Asia-Pacific region deepening
Developing economic, trade and political cooperation between Turkey and the Turkic Republics in the Caucasus and Central Asia will play a big role in the development of relations between Turkey and the Asia-Pacific region. More recently, Turkish companies have been looking to carry out joint projects with Chinese, Japanese and South Korean companies in the Caucasus, Central Asia and Africa.
China, Japan and South Korea all consider Turkey an important base for production and trade in its region and as a result, have rapidly increased their investments in the country. While the direct investments by Japanese companies in Turkey have exceeded $2.2 billion, Chinese and South Korean companies have also crossed the $1 billion threshold. The three countries, in addition to investing in energy, mining, manufacturing and information technology industries, are carrying out effective cooperation with Turkey on satellite systems, nuclear energy and mega infrastructure projects.
Turkey's Bosporus bridges in Istanbul, Osmangazi Bridge in Izmit, the Marmaray and Eurasia tunnels in Istanbul with their transcontinental railway and highways have all attracted a lot of international interest. Companies from the three countries are also aspiring to build new dams, tunnels and megaprojects and to finance these projects on their own. Meanwhile, the joint investments between Turkey and Japan in Africa should also be noted.
The opportunities for strategic cooperation have led to numerous meetings between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea over the past five years.
Ambassador Yi Hongyang, who delivered a speech in Ankara at the 69th anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China (PRC), pointed to the fact that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is ending its fifth year and that China sincerely invites countries around the world, including Turkey, to participate in the partnership network of this initiative so that more regions can benefit from the project.
Pointing out that the trade volume between China and Turkey crossed $14 billion in the first seven months of 2018, a 13 percent increase compared to the same period of last year, Yi said there was a nearly 100 percent increase in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Turkey in the first half of the year. He added that they are ready to make efforts to create a brighter future for China-Turkey relations.
Chinese Consul General in Istanbul Wei Cui said that investments by Chinese companies in Turkey have increased by 20 percent. He said that close to a thousand Chinese companies has opened branches in Turkey. He added that some 200,000 Chinese tourists visited Turkey in the first seven months of this year.
He emphasized that the Belt and Road project has already benefited Chinese and Turkish companies and societies. It is high time that the increased cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region is transformed into a positive force for the Turkic Republics and Africa.