First economy, then Syria

First economy, then Syria

It is a small figure for China with a population of 1.4 billion. Actually it cannot be regarded as a big figure for Turkey, with 70 million people, either. But, I just heard about it.

There are 2,200 Turks living in China. The embassy records say so. (The unofficial figure is 5,000.) They have residence permits, they work and they produce. They are intermediaries in the foreign trade worth $24 billion.

Not too far away, in only 11 years, that is in 2023, the goal is to have $100 billion worth of foreign trade.

There were exactly 137 stories April 10 in international media about the prime minister’s China trip. The Office of the Ambassador read them one by one. The majority of the stories had economic headlines. To a lesser extent, there was the clash at the Syrian border. (As you know, China protects Bashar al-Assad in the U.N.)

Which one would you guess is the decisive factor in the Turkish-Chinese relationship? Or which has a longer shelf life?

Is it the conflict over Syria? Or a trade target of $100 billion?

Granted, whenever Chinese goods are mentioned, we start thinking of discount markets where “Everything is 1 Turkish Lira,” which have mushroomed at every corner.

You are right but do you know what share those goods worth 1 lira have taken from the United States economy? It is exactly $103 billion.

Chinese exports to us are seven times more than what we sell to them. Not only in Turkey; the situation is the same in almost all countries.

Of course, in its trade with the United States, it has trade surplus. Do you know what it does with the money it earns?

It invests in US treasury securities; in other words, it lends to it.

In brief, the US citizen, thanks to China, can find cheaper loans, can buy cheaper imported products. But in the first recession to come, they are kicked out of this fake paradise. They lose their jobs.

The prime minister on April 10, at the time of morning prayers on Turkey’s time, was answering questions from the media.

He first commemorated our martyr. Right after that he gave a series of economic news. Most probably these economic stories will pass unnoticed in most papers and TV channels.

Are they that unimportant? Let’s look together:

- The energy minister met with 17 Chinese energy companies.

- Mehmet Hattat will set up a thermal power plant of $1.5 billion.

- Ali Ağaoğlu has signed for an $800 million wind plant. (As a matter of fact, there is almost nobody left in Turkey who has been engaged in the energy business that has not worked with China.)

Also, the prime minister reminded us that the Chinese are involved in the construction of a high-speed train railway between Eskişehir and Istanbul, and also one between Ankara and Sivas. The prime minister explained all of that before he moved to the subject of Syria. He talked about economy.
He did not ask for money from China (as the U.S. did).

He found it inadequate that Chinese investments are $100 million. He suggested higher figures and more business partnerships. I think this was the correct approach, a correct step.

And a last confession: In our generation, the perception is the same for all of us who have not seen the country, be it that we like China or oppose it at the level of hate.

Wearing caps with red stars, mono-uniformed, hundreds of thousands of small people, reading wall newspapers, riding their bikes to work.

This is my first time in China. I have seen high-rise buildings in Beijing of 50 to 60 floors, streets with six lanes that go straight ahead for kilometers, hundreds of brand stores and restaurants. But I haven’t seen one bicycle. For your information, they are riding Q-7’s now.

Let’s not end up being contented with collecting fake goods.

Enis Berberoğlu is the editor-in-chief of daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published April 11. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.