China-Turkey Diplomatic Engagement: Strengthening Bilateral Relations Through High-Level Visits

Turkey-China relations has evolved over the past few years, in which many new developments have been established between these two prominent players in the global political arena. Historically, Turkey has very limited interactions with China as their diplomatic relations was only established in 1971 and the mutual support for non-interference policy has been the main foundation for a stable relationship between two countries. However, the bilateral relations between them have been up and down in the recent years because of dynamic changes in the regional and global developments.

Turkey relation with China has mainly been driven by the economic interest and bilateral cooperations.  As China has experienced rapid economic growth and growing stronger each day, it has given Turkey an alternative for new partners to diversify trade partners for the financial and investment opportunities. Turkey started the collaboration with China for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2015 with the investment for large-scale projects focuses on energy, infrastructure, logistics, finance, mining, and telecommunications sectors. Until 2021, total foreign direct investment (FDI) is about US$3.5 billion for projects like Istanbul-Ankara high speed rail, Amasra Hattat power plant and Emba Hunutlu powers station. China is Turkey’s largest trading partner in East Asia. In 2022, Turkey's exports to China amounted to US$290.576 million for products like marble and travertine, chrome, copper, lead, iron, zinc, natural borate ores, boron oxides and boric acids, while import from China is US$34,6 billion for product like automatic data processing machines and units, telephones, wireless networks, toys, vehicles, translating and transmitting audio-video and cargo ships.

Turkey holds a very significant value for China’s BRI because of its strategic geographical locations which connected China and Europe through the land road. This has intensified the BRI funded investments for infrastructures and regional connectivity projects such as "Istanbul-Ankara High-Speed Railway Project” and “Istanbul-Belgrade-Sarajevo High-Speed Railway” which has created trade links that passed through key regions like Balkans and Middle East. It is indeed has created economic opportunities for Turkey, but it also has raised geopolitical concerns like China’s growing influences in the region and Turkey’s position with western states and allies (NATO, EU, etc.). Turkey exploring new pivot towards China might have create some tensions with its Western allies, given China policies which are contradicting with the human rights and ‘western’ principals, hence, it is important for Turkey to navigate this geopolitical act to serve both interests and at the same time position Turkey as growing middle power.



The recent visit of then China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi on 26 July 2023 to Turkey has signal Turkey’s balancing act aiming to strengthen economic cooperation between two countries and discussing key regional and international issues. The visit also touched on the Uygur issues, and there may be discussions surrounding human rights violations during the meeting. Despite the improved economic ties between China and Turkey, the issue of human rights remains an important aspect of their relation.

The "Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee, Consultation Mechanism of Foreign Ministers, Consular Consultations, Joint Economic Commission” was the main agenda of the meeting which both sides agreed to emphasize more on dialogues and consultation mechanisms. This was part of both countries’ commitment for intensifying economic and trade relations and enhancing developments for industries like nuclear energy, agriculture, aviation, culture and tourism under China’s Belt and Road Initiatives and Turkey’s ‘Middle Corridor’ umbrella. The collaboration will create a more balanced, structural, and mutual increase of investments in the future in terms of bilateral trade and encouraging both countries to be more influential in global and regional issues.

Although no official statement was released, the speculation about Turkey negotiations with China as its attempt to join BRICS alliances after its diversion from the western alliance’s cannot be ignore. The changing political dynamics and economic challenges over the past years might have triggered Turkey to explore alternative perspectives for its engagement in the global political arena. Joining BRICS will allow Turkey to explore new economic dynamics which consist of emerging economics power; thus, it will invite potential trade and investments from BRICS that could bolster Turkey economic growth such as from New Development Bank (NDB) that can provide financial aid to member countries.


There is more assessment is needed to confirm this interest because Turkey’s ambitions and interest must be aligned with the other BRICS members like foreign policy aspirations, economic priorities, domestic governance. They have to evaluate the engagement carefully as it might have potential impact on its existing alliances like NATO and its desire to be part of the EU. If Turkey really exploring about aligning with BRICS and pursue more close relations with China, it could potentially influence issues like China human rights violations against the Uyghur community. Turkey is critical in voicing against China human rights violations towards Uyghur community, however, even if Turkey become part of BRICS, they have to be cautiously in voicing this matter and might be influenced by the dynamics of the group.

The evolving relationship between Turkey and China has been primarily driven by economic interests, resulting in increased trade and investments. Because China is an important economic partner, Turkey has largely refrained from publicly pressing the issue, likely due to its reliance on China as a significant economic partner. While Turkey has historically concerned about China's treatment of the Uyghurs, its stance appears to have shifted in recent years. In general, the absence of vocal condemnation towards China's treatment of the Uyghurs indicates the complexities of Turkey's balancing act between human rights concerns and its economic interests.

Wang Yi’s visit highlighted the importance of dialogue on economic and regional issues, but Turkey must carefully assess the implications of further alignment with China and potential BRICS membership, while upholding its commitment to human rights principles. It is also important for Turkey to maintain a balanced approach in engagement, advocating for human rights, and strengthening partnerships with Western allies because Uyghur issue requires international collaborations and continuous dialogues which emphasizing on shared values of respecting human rights and promoting peace.



It is essential for Turkey to adopt a comprehensive policy approach towards China because of its status as an influential global actor that Turkey can capitalize for more enhanced cooperation and strategic alliances. Besides, Turkey also has to continue having mutually beneficial relations with key international partners and organizations.

Turkey can tap into new avenues of trade and investment by leveraging China's Belt and Road Initiative. Turkey has received many investments from China as part of BRI projects, however, instead of just receiving and embracing those advantages, Turkey must actively take part in the project as well. Turkey has the capacity to assume a leading role in the sub-projects within this framework and utilize the New Silk Road as a transmission channel of goods, ideas, and people between itself and China. Because China also expanding its influence in the Middle East, Turkey should become a pivot in connecting China and Middle East. To do so, Turkey must enhance its infrastructure and connectivity to optimize its role in the BRI by investing in the development of modern transportation networks, such as railways and ports, that can seamlessly connect with China's ambitious initiatives. Turkey can gain significant economic benefits by fostering stronger partnerships with China, particularly in the Southeastern Anatolian region which riches in natural resources and strategic location. This presents a unique opportunity for Turkey to leverage its assets and strengthen ties with China and exposed economic spillover for the region.

Moreover, formalizing Turkey-China Strategic Dialogue is important because it will give more inclusive and comprehensive platform for Turkey to cover diverse issues and interest such as economics, politics, public diplomacy, and social development. Policymakers, academicians and think tanks can play a pivotal role in driving this collaboration into Turkey statecrafts and put Turkey’s interest as priority. By encouraging joint research projects and intellectual exchanges between Turkish and Chinese institutions, both countries can benefit from shared knowledge and insights, leading to innovative solutions for common challenges. This is also important to show that China is not a partner to replace the West but instead mutual partner in building a framework for Turkey’s global presence.

Lastly, Turkey can use its position as a regional power and prominent member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to initiate constructive dialogues with China  especially about its treatment against Uyghur minority in East Turkistan. Having continuous diplomatic engagement between Turkey, China and Muslim World is vital for addressing issues like the Uyghur and cultural matters. For instance, Turkey can express concerns about human right and advocate for peaceful resolutions by emphasizing the importance of protecting the rights and cultural identity of the Uyghur community like supporting the Uyghur diaspora’s activities and ensuring the welfare of the Uyghur people in the country. This continuous engagement can lead to mutual understanding and encourage China to address the concerns raised, while also promoting a broader conversation on human rights and cultural preservation in the international community.




1.     BRICS Expansion: Implications for Global Economic Balance


2.     China-Türkiye: Bilateral Trade and Future Outlook


3.     China’s 2023 Trade and Investment with Turkiye: Development Trends


4.     Çin Dışişleri Bakanı Wang Yi'nin Ankara ziyaretinde hangi konular görüşülecek?


5.     Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan, Çin Dışişleri Bakanı Wang Yi'yi kabul etti


6.     Turkey aims to enhance cooperation with BRICS: Erdogan


7.     Turkey - China Strategic Dialogue | “Thinking Diplomacy: New World New Horizons”


8.     Turkey’s Foreign Policy Towards China, Analysis and Recommendations for Improvement


9.     Turkey to Join and Adopt BRICS Currency in 2023?

 Prepared by:

Farhan Suzaki
5th August 2023