|ავტორი: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation|
China Radar: South Caucasus is a monthly publication by Rondeli Foundation (GFSIS) dedicated to China’s activities and influence in the three nations of South Caucasus.
With the global rise of great power tensions and competition related to China’s role in the world, Rondeli Foundation began to take a closer look at China’s role in our own region. Since July 2020, we have been publishing China’s Activities in the South Caucasus digest that exhaustively covers events and developments in this regard. China Radar builds on China’s Activities digest to provide experts, researchers, civil servants and other observers of China’s foreign strategy with a comprehensive summary of China’s political, diplomatic, economic, informational, soft power and other activities towards Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as well as these nations’ stances and actions concerning China.
Sources of information provided in China Radar can be found in the issues of China’s Activities digest covering the relevant months unless indicated otherwise. All issues of both China Radar and China’s Activities digest can be found on Rondeli Foundation’s China Watch page.
China’s Presence, Activities and Influence in the South Caucasus
In a meeting with the Georgian foreign minister, Ilia Darchiashvili, on 13 August, China’s ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, thanked Tbilisi for “always upholding the One China principle,” and reiterated Beijing’s wish to continue developing the Belt and Road Initiative together with Georgia.
In a 17 August interview, China’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Guo Min, said that Azerbaijan was an important partner in the Belt and Road Initiative, and that the BRI was highly compatible with Baku’s Great Silk Road strategy.
Propaganda and Disinformation
Chinese media continued its long campaign of attacks on Georgia’s Lugar Center bio laboratory. On 19 August, China Daily issued another portion of disinformation claiming that deadly human experimentation and studies of “insect biological attacks” had been conducted at the Lugar Center.
Importantly, Chinese disinformation against the Lugar Center supports Russian disinformation on this same issue employing similar or same messages.
On 2 August, Huawei concluded another round of its Seeds for the Future program in Azerbaijan. The program provides free information and communications technologies training to the local university students.
South Caucasus Actors Expressing Support for China
A curious case was presented by contradicting statements made by Georgian MPs from the European Socialists party.
On 5 August, the party published a statement “categorically” condemning “any political provocation directed against China”. The statement was issued two days after US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
The statement said that Georgia “supports the principle of one China and recognizes Taiwan as an indivisible part of China’s territory,” and that for the European Socialists “party members, it is unacceptable to violate the fundamental principles of the state sovereignty of united China and promote separatist activities.” It also said that “recent developments within the territorial and legal borders of the People’s Republic of China” were “an attempt to create another center of tension in the world through provocations and incitement policies”.
On 6 August, the European Socialists’ statement was published by the Chinese embassy in Georgia.
On 17 August, however, two out of four European Socialists MPs, David Zilphimiani and Zaza Mikadze, disavowed their party’s statement, saying: “On August 5, 2022, the statement against our strategic partner, the USA, was made on behalf of the European Socialists – in particular, in China-US relations an assessment was made against the latter, which casts a shadow on the friendship of our peoples and countries.”
The other two European Socialists MPs are Phridon Injia and Avtandil Enukidze.
Director of the “international expert club” EurAsiaAz and editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani news agency Baku Tribune, Seymur Mammadov, published a pro-Chinese article on 5 August, attacking Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and calling it “an outright provocation.” Mammadov also attacked the general US policy towards China, and dismissed “the issue of the Uygur people, who are allegedly oppressed by the central authorities” as an American anti-Chinese ploy.
On 7 August, Xinhua published a material that included the president of the Peace Committee of Armenia, Grigor Petrosyan, supporting China’s position regarding the visit of Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
As reported on 9 August, the vice president and chair of the ideological committee of the Republican Party of Armenia, Mushegh Lalayan, said regarding the issue of Taiwan that “there was only one China in the world.”
A Xinhua material from 12 August included a comment by the editor-in-chief of news agency News Day Georgia, Avtandil Otinashvili, saying regarding the Taiwan issue that the world could “fully feel China’s utmost sincerity in striving for peaceful national reunification”.
The head of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies in Armenia, Benyamin Poghosyan, expressed support to China over the Taiwan issue in a comment published on 13 August.
On 15 August, Poghosyan published an article in Chinese media writing that Armenia was looking forward to learning from “China’s successful development experience to boost its development according to Armenian national conditions.”
On 30 August, Poghosyan gave an interview to the Chinese media praising China’s “development miracle,” “the leadership of the Communist Party of China,” “democratic construction,” and Xi Jinping personally along with his book, The Governance of China.
At the Sixth Silk Road International Exposition in Xi’an, China on 15 August, vice president of the Armenian Chinese Partnership Center, Davit Mkhitaryan, stressed the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative for Armenia.
Director of the Confucius Institute at the Azerbaijan University of Languages, Rafiq Abbasov, gave a lecture on 11 August under the title “Taiwan’s History from Ancient Times to Present” supporting China’s position regarding the issue of Taiwan.