Author: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at 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
China-Georgia Strategic Partnership
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced on 11 September that Georgia was introducing a visa-free regime for Chinese citizens. Garibashvili presented this as a development under the recently announced China-Georgia strategic partnership, and praised “the effectiveness of the Chinese government and system.”
Chinese ambassador to Azerbaijan, Guo Min, was active promoting her government’s diplomatic agenda during September 2023.
In an 18 September interview and a 19 September meeting with the Azerbaijani Minister of Digital Development and Transport, she pushed forward the Chinese-Azerbaijani cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, saying it “strongly aligned with the concept of the [transportation] Middle Corridor” as well as Azerbaijan’s national development strategy.
Guo Min also hosted a large reception on 28 September, using the opportunity to promote the idea of the “community of a shared future for China and Azerbaijan in this new era”, as well as cooperation under the BRI, noting that more than ten China-Europe freight train lines were passing through Azerbaijan.
On 17 September, Chinese ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, presented a Chinese Film Festival hosted by the Chinese embassy in Tbilisi as an opportunity to promote Xi Jinping’s recently introduced Global Civilization Initiative.
At an event on 27 September, Zhou Qian promoted Beijing’s diplomatic concept of a “community of shared future for mankind,” as well as the Belt and Road Initiative and Xi Jinping’s three recent global initiatives. He also praised Georgia’s recently announced strategic partnership with China saying he believed that on its basis China and Georgia would “continue to strengthen the strategic synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Middle Corridor.“
Fan Yong, China’s ambassador to Armenia, used Chinese embassy’s reception on 27 September to praise Armenia’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and promote implementation of Xi Jinping’s “three global initiatives.”
Economic Involvement and Connections
Chinese ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, said in an answer to journalist’s question on 6 September that “if the conditions are right, the Chinese companies will not have a problem to be involved in the construction of the Anaklia port.”
According to a report from 22 September, all the five companies participating in a tender announced by the Georgian government in June 2023 for modernization of the highway connecting Georgia to Russia are Chinese ones.
According to a report from 28 September, a new a freight train service had been launched connecting the Chinese city of Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, and the Georgian port city of Poti.
South Caucasus Actors Expressing Support for China
A Georgian pro-Russian Obieqtivi TV hosted the Chinese ambassador to the country, Zhou Qian, on 21 September, with journalist Badri Natchkebia saying the TV channel had started a series of programs dedicated to Xi Jinping and was planning another series about “Xi Jinping’s way.”
Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy
Support for the Belt and Road Initiative
The Revenue Service of Georgia hosted the 4th Belt and Road Initiative Tax Administration Cooperation Forum (BRITACOF) in Tbilisi on 11-13 September. Among the Forum’s stated purposes was “promoting tax administration in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) jurisdictions.”