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The Belt and Road Initiative and the Middle Corridor: Complementarity or Competition?

Though the Chinese government has projected the BRI in economic terms, it has been viewed critically by Australia, Japan, and the U.S. Turkey has, as a geostrategic connector of Asia and Europe, registered its trade interest in the BRI along with projecting the Middle Corridor Initiative (MCI) as a means to realize regional market connectivity and commercial cooperation. In view of the aforesaid, this study aims to explain whether the BRI has factored into Turkey’s Asia policy and to what extent the MCI can complement the BRI. Moreover, the study analyzed the existing scale of China-Turkey trade and proposed a set of opportunities offered by both the BRI and the MCI. Nonetheless, the stated opportunities are beset with multiple challenges ranging from transregional instability to socio-economic upheavals. In order to accrue trade dividends in terms of inter-initiative cooperation and connectivity, both China and Turkey will have to play a leading role in developing policy coordination and establishing cultural linkages among the BRI/MCI community. Thus, operationally, Turkey would carry immense influence in Asian affairs economically and strategically.

The Belt and Road Initiative and the Middle Corridor Complementarity
Belt and Road Initiative, the Chinese modern Silk Road project. Vector by MicroOne / Depositphotos
 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has attracted regional and global attention since its inception in 2013. Though China has presented the BRI in essentially economic terms, it has been viewed strategically by the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India.1 Turkey, however, has maintained a cautious policy as far as the nature and character of the BRI is concerned. Indeed, as a connector of Asia with Europe, Ankara has, on the one hand, showing interest in the Chinese initiative for rational reasons and, on the other hand, come up with its own initiative commonly known as the Middle Corridor –which, while overlapping with the BRI in infrastructural terms, carries the potential to act as a bridge among Turkey, the Southern Caucasus, Central Asia, and China.2 Moreover, as part of its Asian foreign policy, Turkey has projected the Middle Corridor Initiative (MCI) as means as well as ends in pursuing commercial, military, and strategic objectives in a geopolitical environment that is undergoing regional realignments.3

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