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 Azerbaijani foreign ministry officials on 9 February, the Chinese ambassador Guo Min once again stressed Beijing’s wish to work with Azerbaijan to implement Xi Jinping’s Global Development Initiative.
China’s ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, published an article on 27 February, promoting Beijing’s Global Security Initiative and noting that statements of the Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili at the Munich Security Conference coincided with the Initiative’s notions.
Propaganda and Disinformation
On 20 February, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a publication entitled “US Hegemony and Its Perils”. Among its messages was yet another Chinese attack on Georgia’s democratic Rose Revolution of November 2003. This official Chinese publication presented the Rose Revolution as a doing of the United States rather than a consequence of the Georgians’ wish to live in a free society that is not governed by systemic corruption.
Economic Involvement and Connections
Georgia’s national statistics agency, Geostat, reported on 20 January that in 2022 China was Georgia’s third trade partner with 9.8 percent of the total Georgian trade that year. China was the top destination of the Georgian exports in 2022 with 13.2 percent, and the third source country of its imports with 8.4 percent.
According to the Georgian Railways statistics, in 2022 the number of containers shipped from and to China through Georgia increased by 8.3 percent compared to 2021.
South Caucasus Actors Expressing Support for China
On 20 February, a Georgian politician Nino Burjanadze, the leader of the Democratic Movement – United Georgia party, participated in the online launching ceremony of the Chinese documentary festival dedicated to the Belt and Road Initiative and organized by the Chinese government. According to the China Daily, Burjanadze praised the BRI, saying it was spreading China’s wisdom to the wider world.
On 10 February, Chinese state media outlet CGTN published an article by the director of the Azerbaijani international expert club EurAsiaAz and editor-in-chief of news agency Baku Tribune, Seymur Mammadov, in which the latter gave another dose of praise to China and its government.
On 20 February, the head of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies in Yerevan, Armenia, Benyamin Poghosyan, published an article in the China Daily, once again criticizing “the United States’ hegemony” and praising China’s reaction to the Russo-Ukrainian War.
On 28 February, Armenian government made it public that China had gifted it 100 million Yuan for designing the broadcasting hall of Armenia’s Public Television.
Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy
Support for the Belt and Road Initiative
In a January 2023 interview to the Chinese CGTN TV channel, President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, praised the BRI and noted that it had come to cover large geographic area, pointing out that Azerbaijan had joined it from the very beginning. Aliyev also said Baku “fully supports” Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s initiatives regarding the transportation Middle Corridor that runs through South Caucasus.
On 7 March, in a meeting with a Chinese official, Aliyev emphasized the role of the BRI in his country’s bilateral relations with China.
Other Support for China and its Policies
An article published in the Chinese state media on 16 January, contained comments by the ambassador of Azerbaijan, Akram Zeynalli, who, after visiting Xinjiang, praised life and work conditions of local cotton processing workers.