The improving ties between Turkey and China are also evident in the two's cultural ties as the rising number of students and interest in learning the Turkish language shows. Turkey nowadays hosts 1,965 Chinese nationals studying in the country's universities, while the number of Chinese universities offering Turkish classes doubled in two years.
Although the countries maintained somewhat low-profile ties for decades, they recently stepped up cooperation with deals as part of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The ties are largely linked to economic partnerships, but both countries also aim to improve cultural ties on the side.
Istanbul University, one of the oldest universities in Turkey, hosts the largest number of Chinese students, with 338 Chinese citizens studying at the school. Sabahattin Zaim University, also in Istanbul, comes in second with 218 students.
Professor Sedat Aybar, head of the Business and Finance Department at Aydın University where 81 Chinese students study, noted closer ties in the academic worlds of both countries parallel the expanding relations between Turkey and China. "We have seen a rise in applications for students and academic exchange programs," he said. Aybar says Turkey became a hub for foreign students in recent years with a rise in education quality. "Growing racism in the West and restrictions on visas also make Turkey more attractive for students," he added.
"This cultural exchange we have with China is beneficial for us. The students will be informal representatives of Turkey in China once they complete their studies and return home," he said.
In China, the number of universities offering Turkish language courses increased to eight from only four in the past two years. Zeng Yingying, a graduate of the Turkish Studies Department of Peking University, says there is a growing demand for Turkish in universities especially after the introduction of the BRI, adding that learning Turkish presented a good opportunity for Chinese citizens.
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