Sino-Turkish co-operation, the Kumport Terminal deal and the port of Piraeus

Source: Kumport Terminal

Source: Kumport Terminal

By Dr Konstantinos Lampropoulos, Associated Fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy

The Kumport Terminal deal[1], undoubtedly is part of an emerging trend in the context of Sino-Turkish Relations, that is unfolding in the Eurasia region. This trend can be identified as the bolstering of Sino- Turkish cooperation in new fields under new circumstances. The new impetus in Sino-Turkish Relations, lies in Beijing’s ‘Westward Strategy’[2]  and especially with regard to its development component, widely known as the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative[3], which puts emphasis on investing in infrastructure projects such as seaports, airports, oil & gas fields, railways and roads.

Turkey has been targeted by China as one of the countries which would play a fundamental role in expanding the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ Initiative because of geostrategic and geo-economic imperatives. These imperatives include Beijing’s concern about the territorial integrity of the pivotal province of Xinjiang[4] and the unquestionable role that Turkey can play in easing the tension between the Muslim Uighurs of Turkish origin and China. Turkey on the other hand, has been pivoting East to seek new alliances and alternatives to the EU and the US[5], thus promoting further ties with China.

China has been courting cooperation with Turkey on the Xinjiang issue with a series of bilateral trade and investment agreements including a Turkish industrial zone in the province. Turkey in turn, joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a Dialogue Partner with a view toward eventual membership, while it has also chosen in 2013, a Chinese firm to co-produce a $3.4 billion range air and missile defense system.

In this context, the purchase of the Kumport Terminal could be a serious step to the ever growing Sino-Turkish partnership, since both countries have publicly declared their willingness for further enhancement of their bilateral relations[6]. Although the deal is perceived by Greek fund Taiped as complementary to the Chinese investment in the port of Piraeus[7], the latter may suffer from the side effects of the current Sino-Turkish cooperation initiatives notwithstanding the capital controls now in force in Greece and the negative impact they are having on the commercial activity. Further, the Turkish facility has the advantage of a much stronger domestic market while it enjoys superior rail connections into Eastern Europe.

The Kumport Terminal deal should be seen through the lens of China’s necessity to engage Turkey for both the Xijiang issue and the development of the OBOR Initiative and of Turkey’s ambitions to have alternatives to its Western economic and security dependency, reinvigorate its fragile economy benefitting from Chinese direct investment.Therefore, the Kumport Terminal Deal could prove a stepping stone to an enhanced and growing Sino-Turkish Partnership and might in the long term outgrow the Chinese investment in the port of Piraeus.

[1] The purchase of a 66 percent share of Kumport Terminal, Turkey’s third largest container terminal for approximately $940 million  by a Chinese investor consortium

[2] See Tang Yongsheng,”Actively Promoting Wesward Strategy”, Beijing Xiandai  Guoji Guanxi ,(November 20 2010)

[3] See Lin Christina, A new Eurasian Embrace, Paper Series no 3,Transatlantic Academy,2013-2014 p 9

[4] Xinjiang can be defined as pivotal because of its geographic location as it constitutes a key geographic bridge for China’s overland pipelines and transport routes. See Lin Christina, A new Eurasian Embrace, Paper Series no 3,Transatlantic Academy,2013-2014  p 9-10

[5] See H.M.Karavelli,”Islamic-Western embrace fuels Eurasianism in the Turkish Military”, Turkey Analyst,(February 13 2009)

[6] For Erdogan and Xi joint declarations, See

[7] See