Author: Medea Ivaniadze, Junior Researcher at Rondeli Foundation
The digest covers China’s political, diplomatic, economic, and other activities in the South Caucasus region and relations between China and the South Caucasus countries. It relies on a wide variety of sources, including the Chinese media. It is worth noting that the Chinese media is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (according to the World Press Freedom Index China is nearly at the bottom of the list and ranks 179th out of 180 countries).
- The Georgian Government condemns and apologizes for the Georgian President’s comment on Xi Jinping – the President’s administration denies that comments were about Xi
- The Chinese state media targets Georgia’s Rose Revolution
- 12% of Georgians consider China the most important economic partner for Georgia
- China and Armenia exchange views on strengthening cooperation in the justice field
- The US Ambassador: In a strategic partnership agreement, Georgia explicitly recognizes China’s sovereignty, we don’t see that same commitment from China to Georgia
- The 9th meeting of the Azerbaijan-China Intergovernmental Trade-Economic Cooperation Commission held
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The Georgian Government condemns and apologizes for the Georgian President’s comment on Xi Jinping – the President’s administration denies that comments were about Xi
Zhou Qian and Irakli Garibashvili. Source: The Government of Georgia
In an interview with the French media LCI, the Georgian President, Salome Zourabichvili, was asked if she hoped in her heart that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping would ever be brought to justice. Regarding Xi, the journalist noted that for the genocide of Uyghurs.
“It is your personal wish that these two people be brought to justice, first of all, Putin of course, because it concerns you more…” the journalist told her.
Zourabichvili answered: “It is my inner belief that this would be a historic outcome that would put certain things in their place. If you ask me, do I think is this realistic? No”. The interview was published by the President’s office on November 11.
On November 13, the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili met with the Ambassador of China Zhou Qiang.
The Prime Minister’s office reported that during the meeting, Garibashvili assessed Zourabichvili’s statement about Xi Jinping and noted that “such a statement was categorically unacceptable and alarming”.
The report said the following: “Referred rhetoric contradicts the attitude of the Georgian authorities and people of Georgia towards China and does not comply with a friendly, strategic partnership spirit of the two countries, thereby harming the friendly relations and partnership between the two countries”.
According to the Prime Minister of Georgia, “It is unfortunate and by far not the first instance when the President of Georgia has violated the Constitution by harming the state interests, pursuing individual activities and making personal assessments of international affairs that are not aligned with the government position, as a result of which the international image of the country suffers”.
The report also said the following: “Her public and grave breaches of the Constitution have served as a reason for the ruling team to initiate the Impeachment of the President”.
Garibashvili told the Chinese Ambassador that Georgia was a parliamentary republic, whereby the President was not entitled to run the foreign policy of the country and it was the exclusive discretion of the Government of Georgia to carry out the foreign policy of Georgia.
“Thus, the statement made by the President of Georgia does not even formally express the attitude of the Georgian authorities towards the state and leader of China,” the Prime Minister’s office continued explanation.
Reportedly, the Prime Minister of Georgia expressed deploration for the statement made by the President of Georgia, “thereby expressing hopes that it will not affect or harm the historically most positive relationship dynamics between Georgia and China”.
The report also said that the two sides had discussed the two counties’ relationship positively, Garibashvili once again praising Xi Jinping and his vision and initiatives: “Prime Minister of Georgia most positively reiterated the outstanding role, vision and achievements of effective governance of the President of the People’s Republic of China in the transformation and advancement of China, thereby focusing on various wide-scale reforms planned by the Government of China under the leadership of the President, including the initiatives of global significance, as well as different and extraordinary vision of the President of China in solving and regulating the problems witnessed at a regional and international scale”.
The following day, the Head of the Administration of the President of Georgia, Natia Sulava, met with the Ambassador of China to Georgia, Zhou Qian.
Sulava said that in the interview given to the LCI, in the answer of the President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, there was “no reference to the relations between Georgia and China or specifically, to the President of the People’s Republic of China”.
The President’s Administration noted that the entire interview was focused on Georgia-EU relations, Georgia and Russia and the President’s answer “would only concern the President of the country that has occupied the territories of Georgia”.
It is also noteworthy that the ruling Georgian Dream party members unequivocally condemned Zourabichvili’s statement.
The Chair of the Georgian Dream party Irakli Kobakhidze said that President Salome Zourabichvili was “trying to somehow damage the country’s interests”, Agenda reported on November 14.
“I would like to respond to Salome Zourabichvili’s statement about the Chinese President – it was a shameful statement for which the Government has had to apologise”, Kobakhidze said.
On November 14, the Executive Secretary of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Mamuka Mdinaradze, said the following: “It is unfortunate that we have to apologise to our friends [and] partners for Salome Zourabichvili’s statements. Today, we are apologising, because she made such a damaging statement about the relations between [Georgia and China]”.
On November 13, Georgian Education Minister Giorgi Amilakhvari also commented on Zourabichvili’s statement and said that it was “categorically unacceptable”.
The Minister said he hoped the “crass statement” by the President would not damage the “right relationship” formed between Georgia and China.
The Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili said comments by Zourabichvili were “damaging”, “ignored citizen’s interests” and “created embarrassment”.
Reportedly, he also cited the “concern” of Zhou Qian, the Chinese Ambassador to Georgia, as the “main outcome” of Zourabichvili’s remark, adding the claims were “removed from the reality and fail to take into account the interests of Georgian citizens”.
On November 12, the first Deputy speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Gia Volski, joined the others by saying that “this was not only called irresponsibility, but political unreasonableness”, Interpressnews reported.
“I hope that there is no more insidious plan here – to somehow turn China against Georgia, with which we have a very promising cooperation,” he added.
On Rustavi 2 TV channel Volski reportedly said the following: “Making such a statement is very close to maliciousness”.
About the statement made by Zourabichvili regarding China, Georgian Dream MP Irakli Chikovani answered that “for several months Salome Zourabichvili has been making inadequate statements, which are completely out of line with the strategic interests of our state”, Interpressnews reported on November 13.
It should be noted that David Kartvelishvili, a member of the People’s Power party, which is closely associated with the ruling Georgian Dream party, also commented on Zourabichvili’s statement.
”…The Chinese Ambassador understood the explanation of the Prime Minister of Georgia, which means that it is not a secret for him as well, what a difficult case the country is dealing with regarding the President who has gone beyond the scope of the constitution and is “under impeachment” as an “agent of influence” of a foreign country. The Chinese Ambassador partly avoided us the feeling of shame because of this unprecedented “inconvenience”, although intuition dictates us that we still have everything ahead of us in this regard,” Kartvelishvili wrote.
The Chinese state media targets Georgia’s Rose Revolution
On November 6, the Chinese state media Global Times targeted Georgia’s democratic Rose Revolution of 2003. The report claimed the following:
“For a long time, the CIA has secretly carried out destabilization campaigns and colour revolutions around the world, while continuing its espionage activities. From the impact on the international socialist camp in the 1980s, the early 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union and change in Eastern Europe, to the 2003 “Rose Revolution” in Georgia, the 2004 “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine… these have all been recognized by international institutions and scholars around the world as typical cases of color revolutions incited by the US”.
12% of Georgians consider China the most important economic partner for Georgia
On November 15, the International Republican Institute (IRI) published a survey on public opinion in Georgia.
On the question of which of the named countries a responder considered the most important political partners for Georgia, 6% said that it was China, a 3% increase compared to responses of April’s poll . 4% consider that China poses the greatest political threat to Georgia – a 2% increase compared to April’s poll.
12% of Georgian residents consider China the most important economic partner for Georgia – compared to April’s poll, it is a 4% increase. 5% think that China poses the greatest economic threat to Georgia – a 3% increase. Multiple responses were permitted for all the questions.
The data was collected throughout Georgia between September 14 and October 14, 2023.
China and Armenia exchange views on strengthening cooperation in the justice field
A photo from the meeting. Source: The Embassy of Armenia to China
On November 16, the Chinese Ambassador to Armenia Fan Yong invited the Minister of Justice of Armenia Grigor Minasyan and Deputy Ministers Armenuhi Harutyunyan and Karen Karapetyan to the Embassy.
The Chinese Embassy wrote that they had exchanged views on strengthening cooperation in the justice field between the two countries.
Reportedly, Minasyan expressed high appreciation for China’s achievements in the legislation field and said that the Armenian government was actively carrying out judicial reforms, and hoped “to learn from the advanced experience of China” and strengthen exchanges between the relevant agencies of the two countries.
The US Ambassador: In a strategic partnership agreement, Georgia explicitly recognizes China’s sovereignty, we don’t see that same commitment from China to Georgia
In a November 15 interview with RFE/RL the Ambassador of the United States to Georgia Ambassador Dunnigan answered questions regarding Georgia-China relations.
An interviewer asked what was the U.S. position on the development in the relations between China and Georgia, the bilateral declaration on strategic partnership between the two countries.
The Ambassador answered: “I have to be honest when I say that we respect Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, we mean it. We respect Georgia’s sovereignty and it’s a sovereign decision who to trade with, who to sign agreements with. But again, I want to reiterate that having in place really strong mechanisms to ensure that investment decisions and trade decisions that are being made are as transparent and clear as possible, and that it is understood what the long-term implications are. In terms of the strategic partnership, I’m just observing that in that agreement Georgia explicitly recognizes China’s sovereignty, but we don’t see that same commitment from China to Georgia. And this is a country that is getting increasingly closer to Russia, China is, and Russia is an occupier of parts of Georgia. So, I’m just observing that that is a bit of a fraught situation”.
While asked about the Anaklia port project and China’s interest, the Ambassador answered:
“…On Anaklia, further developing the port would be an important element of Georgia’s serious efforts to develop itself as a Middle Corridor, an important link in the Middle Corridor, which is more important now than ever. Who the government chooses to develop that port is ultimately a sovereign decision of the government. We would just encourage Georgia, as we encourage all countries when looking at critical infrastructure, including a port, but all critical infrastructure, you really need to know who you’re working with and what their long-term intentions are. And you need to ensure, a country needs to ensure that that process is as transparent as possible, and I think with critical infrastructure like ports, it’s extremely important”.
The Chinese Ambassador met with Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister
A photo from the meeting. Source: The Embassy of China in Azerbaijan
On November 15, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev met with the Chinese Ambassador to Azerbaijan Guo Min, Azertac reported.
They hailed “the successful development of Azerbaijan-China friendly relations and cooperation” in political, trade, economic, mutual investments, transport-logistics, energy, agricultural, humanitarian and other fields. Reportedly, they noted that Azerbaijan and China enjoyed strategic partnership relations.
Azerbaijani and Chinese sides also expressed their confidence that the Protocol signed on the results of the 9th meeting of the Azerbaijan-China Intergovernmental Trade and Economic Cooperation Commission would contribute to the development of trade and economic relations.
They also discussed prospects for expanding cooperation in various areas.
Georgia wants to be granted the status of observer state in China-CEEC cooperation
The Georgian Ambassador to China Archil Kalandia participated in the 5th China-CEEC SME (Central and Eastern European Countries Small and medium-sized Enterprises) Cooperation Forum held in Cangzhou, China, the Chinese state media Global Times reported on November 16. There, Kalandia met with China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Deng Li.
Reportedly, Kalandia reiterated his desire for the Georgian side to be granted the status of observer state in the mechanism of cooperation between China and CEEC, and Deng expressed his support.
“We should further buttress our development strategies, expand cooperation in areas such as green development and digital transformation, and create new growth points through innovative ways of cooperation,” Deng said at the forum.
The China-CEEC Cooperation Mechanism was launched in 2012.
A Sino-Azerbaijani conference is held
A Sino-Azerbaijani conference on the development of economy, trade, culture and tourism was held within the framework of the 7th International Silk Road Exhibition in Xi’an, China, Azernews reported on November 18.
The event was organized jointly by the government of China’s Shanxi Province and the trade mission under the Azerbaijani Embassy in China.
The Deputy Chairman of the Standing Committee of the People’s Representative Assembly of Shanxi Province, Li Xiaoyin, said the Belt and Road Initiative played an important role in deepening cooperation between the two countries in various fields.
The Azerbaijani Ambassador to China Bunyad Huseynov emphasized that Azerbaijan was China’s largest trade partner in the South Caucasus, noting that the energy sector was an important component of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and that China’s advanced experience and technologies in the field of alternative energy were of interest to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s Trade Representative in China Teymur Nadiroglu made a presentation on Azerbaijan’s economic and trade potential, business and investment environment, transport and logistics infrastructure, and role in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative.
He also spoke about the ongoing work on the reconstruction of the economic areas of Garabagh and East Zangazur and said that “the active participation of friendly countries, including Chinese companies”, in this process was desirable.
He also spoke about “the favourable conditions offered in the industrial parks and economic zones” established in Azerbaijan’s regained territories.
The 9th meeting of the Azerbaijan-China Intergovernmental Trade-Economic Cooperation Commission
A photo from the meeting. Source: News.az
Trade and e-commerce representatives from China and Azerbaijan expressed willingness to further promote economic cooperation between the two countries during the 9th meeting of the Azerbaijan-China Intergovernmental Trade-Economic Cooperation Commission, the Chinese state media Global Times reported on November 7.
News.az reported that the Azerbaijani delegation was led by the Deputy Prime Minister, co-chairman of the Azerbaijan-China Intergovernmental Trade and Economic Cooperation Commission, Shahin Mustafayev, and the Chinese delegation by the Chinese Vice Minister for Commerce, co-chairman of the Commission, Ling Ji.
A Chinese official reportedly said that China was willing “to expand imports from Azerbaijan, encourage enterprises to invest in the Central Asian country, as part of pragmatic efforts to improve the level of economic and trade cooperation between the two nations”.
Mustafayev said that Chinese companies were welcome to invest in Azerbaijan. He added that the two countries could strengthen cooperation in the new-energy sector, and promote the joint construction of the trans-Caspian international transportation corridor.
The Chinese Ambassador and a Chinese think tank discuss strengthening cooperation between Georgia’s and China’s think tanks
On November 10, the Chinese Ambassador to Georgia Zhou Qian met with the Deputy Director of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Jin Zhe and his delegation. Reportedly, they discussed strengthening exchanges and cooperation between China and Georgia in scientific research and between think tanks.
Georgian Minister says that China is one of “the most intriguing, promising, and important” markets for Georgian wine exports
A photo from the event. Source: The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia
During his working visit to Shanghai, China, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia Otar Shamugia visited the Georgian exhibition stand at the “ProWine Shanghai” expo and met with the representatives of Georgian companies, the Ministry reported on November 10.
The Minister reportedly said that China was one of “the most intriguing, promising, and important” markets for Georgian wine exports.
The Ambassador of Georgia to China Archil Kalandia, and the Head of the National Wine Agency of Georgia Levan Mekhuzla also attended the exhibition.
Reportedly, the National Wine Agency supported 27 Georgian wine-producing companies to participate in this expo.
23 Armenian companies present at the China Expo
The Deputy Minister of Economy of Armenia, Arman Khojoyan, participated in the 6th China International Import Expo being held, from November 5 to 10, in Shanghai, China, News.am reported.
Armenia presented its national pavilion, presenting the products of 23 Armenian companies, as well as the Armenian culture and tourism opportunities of Armenia.