Xi’s China to affect world politics – as well as Turkey
A possible “weak and irresolute” stance of the Chinese President Xi Jinping was suggested as the “second biggest threat to world security” (after unilateral decisions by U.S. President Donald Trump) by the Eurasia Group during the Munich Security Conference back in February.
The Chinese Communist Party’s congress, which was concluded on Oct. 24, showed that such a stance is not materializing. President Xi reinforced his power by reducing the number of his internal rivals, increasing his allies, and getting an ambitious economic and political program approved by the 2,300 delegates of the 19th National Congress.
Commentators have suggested that Xi has become the second strongest man in modern Chinese history after Mao Zedong, the Communist leader who established the People’s Republic of China through a civil war in 1949. At the congress, the Party approved the writing of Xi’s name and principles in Party by-laws, which is also the country’s constitution, next to those of Mao.
This endorsement of Xi’s power is likely to increase China’s weight in world politics, suggesting a more outward look to China’s economic and diplomatic activities. It could prove to be as important as China’s entry to the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member in 1971 and Mao’s hosting of then U.S. President Richard Nixon in Beijing the following year, heralding China’s reopening to the world.
The One Belt, One Road initiative pursued by the Communist Party was initiated by Xi back in 2013, and represents one of the major pillars of China’s outward turn. The initiative involves the development of combined land and maritime transportation systems in order to integrate China’s infrastructure with up to 60 other countries, with the aim of making China become a global economic and therefore political player.
Turkey has an important role in the “new Silk Road” project, which is a part of the One Belt, One Road initiative. Istanbul is cited as one of the key stops of the land route starting from Xian in China, along with Urumqi, Moscow, Venice and Amsterdam. For the maritime routes, the Greek port of Piraeus, recently bought by China, will also play a key role. It is thus no surprise that a Chinese warship recently visited Istanbul earlier in 2017, in the first demonstration of China’s presence in the Mediterranean region.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly expressed admiration for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization over Ankara’s Western allies the U.S. and the EU, which are suffering from a series of political problems. More Turkish cooperation with China could take place in the coming years, which would have a transformative effect on regional policies.
In implementing his policies, Xi will be in direct competition with U.S. President Donald Trump, which could have severe ramifications in the security politics of the Pacific – not least the ongoing crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Xi may find Russian President Vladimir Putin to be useful ally in a number of issues, but he is likely to approach Russia with caution, bearing in mind former conflicts between Moscow and Beijing.
In the Communist Party’s new 25-member Central Committee, Wang Huning, with his influence on foreign policy, and Wang Yang, in charge of economic policies, are also likely to play key roles in implementing China’s new leap to the global scene. Officially ending the one-child policy in China, which has created a big imbalance between men and women in the country, could be another ambitious target for Xi in the coming years.
Either way, Turkey is likely to be affected by the major shift of geopolitical power as Xi consolidates his grip.