|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 23 November interview, Guo Min, China’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, referred to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a “choir” of different countries rather than China’s “solo,” stressing that Azerbaijan’s participation was welcome. She also said that “democracy is not a patent of Western countries and cannot be defined exclusively by the West,” and that “styles of democracy in different countries of the world cannot be the same.”
Chinese ambassador to Georgia, Li Yan, published an article on 24 November praising Georgia as one of the first countries to respond positively to the BRI. Similar to her colleague in Azerbaijan, Li Yan touched upon the matter of democracy, mentioning “some countries” trying to “impose their social system on others,” and saying that the “so-called democratic model” always ended in failure. The ambassador stressed that the CCP considered creation of the “community with shared future for mankind” as its duty, and would keep implementing the BRI as well as leading “reform of the global governance system.”
Chinese state media outlet Global Times published an article on 26 November, claiming that “Georgia challenged Russia in 2008 but received no help from the West at all when Russia launched a military retaliation.”
In fact, in the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, Russia invaded Georgia with its regular armed forces on 7 August, while the Georgian military operation was only launched after the start of the Russian invasion in attempt to defend the country against the ongoing foreign military attack.
Economic Involvement and Connections
According to the Geostat information from 19 November, China remained Georgia’s third trade partner by the total turnover in the first three quarters of 2021, with 10.8 percent of the total turnover. China also remained the first trade partner of Georgia by exports.
20 Armenian students were selected for a Huawei program designed to teach them about digital technologies including 5G, cloud and AI. The process was supported by the Armenian officials, universities and communication companies.
South Caucasus Actors Expressing Support for China
With the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics causing controversy and diplomatic boycotts, actors in South Caucasus expressed support for the event.
Director of the Eurasia-Azerbaijan (EurAsiaAz) international expert club and editor-in-chief of Azerbaijani outlet Baku Tribune, Seymur Mammadov, praised the coming Beijing Winter Olympics in an article from 16 November, saying there was no doubt that the event would be “unforgettable.” China’s embassy in Azerbaijan reposted the article.
Deputy president of the Georgian National Olympic Committee, Mamuka Khabareli, told the Xinhua news agency on 23 November that the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics achieved great success, and therefore “people have reason to believe that the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will also be highly appraised by the international sports circles.” He added that the Chinese Olympic Committee would “surely be able to remarkably complete the task of hosting the Winter Olympics, just as China successfully responded to the new coronavirus epidemic.”
On 13 November, Xinhua quoted various foreigners referred to by this Chinese outlet as “experts and scholars” praising the sixth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP. One of them was the director of a Georgian news agency News Day, Avtandil Otinashvili, saying that the CCP’s plenary session in question had the major significance of “serving as a link between past and future,” while the resolutions passed there “comprehensively summed up the reason for the CCP’s success” and would “push China toward a new prosperous development, and will also have a positive, important and far-reaching influence on the future of the world”.
On 24 November, Xinhua did the same exhibition of the CCP’s foreign supporters regarding Xi Jinping’s letter for the 4th World Media Summit held in Beijing. Otinashvili was represented again, saying that Xi’s letter “injected a driving force in the world media to bear their responsibilities and strengthen exchanges and cooperation.”
China’s National Press and Publication Administration and Armenia’s Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport signed a memorandum on the mutual translation and publication of classics on 25 November, agreeing to jointly translate and publish 50 classical works of the two countries in the next five years. Zhang Jianchun, deputy secretary of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department, signed the memorandum for the Chinese side.
Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy
Support for the Belt and Road Initiative
In a 17 November interview, Georgian ambassador to China, Archil Kalandia, called the Belt and Road Initiative one of the main directions in the Georgian-Chinese bilateral cooperation. Kalandia stressed that Georgia possesses strategic location on a crossroads between Europe and Asia, and presents one of the shortest routes for trade, transportation and economic corridors between these two parts of the world, adding that Georgia would like to utilize these advantages in the BRI framework.
Kalandia stressed: “We hope that in the near future in all official maps of the Belt and Road Initiative, one of the main economic corridors will go through Georgia in the South Caucasus region.”
Other Support for China and its Policies
An investigative report published on 30 November 2021 revealed that Armenia was among the countries that had deported dozens of the Taiwanese individuals to the People’s Republic of China.