China’s envoy says Turkish Uighur criticism could hit economic ties

Security guards stand at the gates of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Huocheng County in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. (Reuters)
Updated 02 March 2019
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China’s envoy says Turkish Uighur criticism could hit economic ties

  • Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated Ankara’s concern at a UN meeting this week

ANKARA: Turkey risks jeopardizing economic ties with China if it keeps criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs, China’s envoy to Ankara warned, just as Chinese firms are looking to invest in Turkish energy and infrastructure megaprojects.

Last month Turkey broke silence over the fate of China’s Uighurs, saying more than 1 million people faced arbitrary arrest, torture and political brainwashing in Chinese internment camps in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated Ankara’s concern at a UN meeting this week, calling on China to respect human rights and freedom of religion.

China has denied accusations of mistreatment and deems criticism at the UN to be interference in its sovereignty. Beijing says the camps are re-education and training facilities that have stopped attacks previously blamed on militants and separatists.

“There may be disagreements or misunderstandings between friends but we should solve them through dialogue. Criticizing your friend publicly everywhere is not a constructive approach,” said Deng Li, Beijing’s top diplomat to Ankara.

“If you choose a non-constructive path, it will negatively affect mutual trust and understanding and will be reflected in commercial and economic relations,” Deng, speaking through a translator, told Reuters in interview.

For now, Deng said that many Chinese companies were looking for investment opportunities in Turkey including the third nuclear power plant Ankara wants to build.

Several Chinese firms, including tech giant Alibaba, are actively looking at opportunities in Turkey after the lira’s sell-off has made local assets cheaper.

In addition to Alibaba, which last year purchased Turkish online retailer Trendyol, other companies holding talks included China Life Insurance and conglomerate China Merchants Group, Deng said.

Deng said Chinese banks wanted to invest in Turkey, following the lead of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) which bought Tekstilbank in 2015.

Chinese investment in Turkey would help narrow Ankara’s gaping current account deficit, which stood at $27.6 billion last year. Turkey’s trade deficit with China alone stood at $17.8 billion last year, according to Trade Ministry data.

In January, Turkey’s Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said it was “impossible” for Turkey to maintain such a trade deficit with China and other Asian countries, saying the government was considering taking measures.

Deng said he did not expect Turkey to take protectionist steps. “Both countries are strictly against such policies, and both economies need an open world economy,” he said.

He also called on Turkey to adopt Chinese payment platforms such as WeChat and AliPay. “People don’t want to pay in cash and the population here is very young so they wouldn’t have trouble adapting to new technologies,” Deng said.

Good diplomatic and political ties, however, would remain crucial for developing economic ties and attracting more Chinese investment, he said, adding that he had raised the issue with Cavusoglu on Tuesday, a day after the foreign minister’s intervention at the United Nations.

“The most important issue between countries are mutual respect,” he said. “Would you stay friends if your friend criticized you publicly every day?”


North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

Updated 16 min 28 sec ago

North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

  • South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme
  • Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, although a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people

SEOUL: North Korea’s crop production this year is expected to drop to its lowest level in five years, bringing serious shortages for 40 percent of the population, as a dry spell and poor irrigation hit an economy already reeling from sanctions over its weapons programs, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In its latest quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the poor harvest of the country’s main crops, rice and maize, means 10.1 million people are in urgent need of assistance.
“Below-average rains and low irrigation availability between mid-April and mid-July, a critical period for crop development, mainly affected the main season rice and maize crops,” the FAO said. The report, which covers cereal supply and demand around the world and identifies countries that need external food aid, didn’t disclose detailed estimates of production by volume.
North Korea has long struggled with food shortages and a dysfunctional state rationing system, and state media has in recent months warned of drought and other “persisting abnormal phenomena.”
The crops shortfall comes as the country bids to contain the spread of African swine fever in its pig herd, following confirmation of a first case in May.
The disease, fatal to pigs though not harmful to humans, has spread into Asia — including South Korea — since first being detected in China last year, resulting in large-scale culls and reduced production of pork, a staple meat across the region including in North Korea.
The FAO report followed earlier UN assessments this year that the isolated country’s food production last year fell to its lowest level in more than a decade amid a prolonged heatwave, typhoon and floods.
South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). But its delivery has been delayed by Pyongyang’s lukewarm response amid stalled inter-Korean dialogue and denuclearization talks with the United States, Seoul officials said.
In July, the North’s official KCNA news agency said a campaign to mitigate the effects of drought was under way by digging canals and wells, installing pumps, and using people and vehicles to transport water.
But North Korea has told the United Nations to cut the number of its staff it deploys in the country for aid programs. citing the “politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces.”
Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, but observers said a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people.