U.S. ally Turkey may have a new best friend in Beijing

Turkish President Recep Tayyip is in Washington for a meeting with President Trump. As The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung has explained, the visit comes at a complicated time for the U.S.-Turkey relationship. While Erdogan talked positively about Trump just a few months ago, the nations seem to be drifting apart in a number of key policy areas.

But however important the meeting at the White House may be, America will not be the only partner on Erdogan’s mind.

Erdogan was in Beijing over the weekend for a two-day “Belt and Road Forum” convened by Chinese President . On Monday, just one day before his trip to the Oval Office, the Turkish president fired off a series of tweets — in English as well as Turkish — offering praise for Xi’s new international infrastructure and development plan.

The forum was designed to promote that Beijing-led plan, which has been referred to by a series of sometimes-grandiose titles: the “Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road,” “The Belt and Road Initiative,” or simply “One Belt, One Road.”

As the names suggest, the plan is inspired by the ancient Silk Road trading route, but with a modern twist (it’s also branded as “Globalization 2.0.”). Its idea is simple: China is pledging to invest hundreds of billions of dollars to build infrastructure projects like ports and power plants all across the world. 

The scale is enormous. By some estimates, the amount of investment being offered by Beijing would dwarf the sums the invested in Europe after World War II under the Marshall Plan.

Erdogan was far from the only politician staying in Beijing over the weekend. In total there were some 28 world leaders there, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump did not attend, and only at the last minute did he decide to send a senior representative: Matthew Pottinger, a well-respected National Security Council official and China expert.


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