|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
General Secretary of the CCP, Xi Jinping, praised China-Armenia cooperation regarding joint development of the Belt and Road Initiative in his message of congratulation to President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, on the Armenian Independence Day, 21 September.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elnur Mammadov, met with China’s Ambassador, Guo Min, on 2 September. Mammadov subsequently stated that they had discussed “opportunities” around the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while the Chinese Embassy in Azerbaijan said in its statement regarding the meeting that the two countries must deepen cooperation within the BRI framework, and should use the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, coming in 2022, as an opportunity to further upgrade the two countries’ relationship.
Economic Involvement and Connections
China’s Transport Minister, Li Xiaopeng, discussed issues of transportation and logistics with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Rashad Nabiyev, on 13 September. The two agreed that major Chinese transport companies would support the transit route through Azerbaijan, and Li Xiaopeng stated that China was ready to support infrastructure, transport and logistics development projects in Azerbaijan. The two transport ministers emphasized Azerbaijan’s support for the BRI, and agreed to create a working group on transport, presided by their deputy ministers.
South Caucasus Actors Expressing Support for China
The Belt and Road Georgian Business House (located in Guangzhou, Guangdong province) signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Guangdong Committee on 24 September. The Belt and Road Georgian Business House also presented the Georgia pavilion at the Maritime Silk Road International Expo 2021 held in Guangzhou, China on 24-26 September, which was visited by the Georgian Ambassador to China, Archil Kalandia, and Chinese officials.
The ruling Georgian Dream party MP, Giorgi Amilakhvari, kept feeling the relevance of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, which was on 1 July 2021, publishing an article on this topic in Georgian newspaper Kviris Palitra on 6 September. Amilakhvari wrote there that “the reforms and governance in the People’s Republic of China are very correct and focused on dynamic development,” adding that “China is a supporter and defender of world peace”.
Giorgi Verulidze, the president of the Georgian National Wushu Federation, continued the relay, publishing his Kviris Palitra article dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP on 13 September. In the best traditions of the rhetoric style familiar to the Georgians from their 20th century history, Verulidze called the CCP “the vanguard of the Chinese working class, the people and the Chinese nation, the core of socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
The chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies in Yerevan, Armenia, Benyamin Poghosyan, published an article in the Chinese media on 26 September, writing that the BRI offered “a new paradigm for mutually beneficial cooperation between participating countries based on a people-centric approach and the revolutionary idea of building a community with a shared future for humanity.” Poghosyan also expressed support for the Chinese companies developing 5G networks in Armenia, and for the development of “data transit” between Asia and Europe through an Iran-Armenia-Georgia corridor.
Poghosyan also spoke to China Daily, calling the American withdrawal from Afghanistan “an inglorious event which also signals the end of the US hegemony.”
On 12 September, the Red Cross Society of China gifted 100,000 units of the Sinopharm vaccine to Georgia.
Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy
Support for the Belt and Road Initiative
On 6 September, Armenian Foreign Minister, Ararat Mirzoyan, discussed combining the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road initiative with the Chinese Ambassador to Armenia, Fan Yong. Three days prior to that, the need “to deepen the collaboration between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union” had been mentioned by the General Secretary of the CCP, Xi Jinping.
Georgian Ambassador to China, Archil Kalandia, made a series of statements in support of the BRI in September 2021.
On 8 September, he told Chinese media in an interview that Georgia had from the beginning supported the BRI which would help Georgia’s status as the regional transit and trade hub. Kalandia added that Georgian diplomats were working with the Chinese on a new action plan under the BRI which would cover many directions including economy, infrastructure, education, culture and tourism among others.
In a printed message published by LOOKWE in its September 2021 issue, Kalandia said that Georgia was looking for greater participation in the BRI, adding that it would bring economic growth and sustainable development. Kalandia also praised socialism with Chinese characteristics saying it had “formed a series of unique methods and experiences in the development of society, technical progress and party building”.
Kalandia also took part in the long relay of Kviris Palitra articles by various Georgian figures dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the CCP. In an article printed on 27 September, Kalandia wrote that the BRI was fully in line with Georgia’s aspirations to become a transport, transit, trade and logistical hub between the West and the East. He also wrote that Georgia expected to develop relations with China “in all possible directions” thanks to the BRI.
Other Support for China and its Policies
Chinese media listed Armenia among the countries that “spoke highly of China’s human rights achievements” and supported it on issues of Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 14-15 September. Armenia also reportedly stressed its support for the One-China Principle.