Author: 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

Diplomatic Messaging

On April 20, Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, held phone conversations with the foreign ministers of ArmeniaAzerbaijan and Georgia. In all three conversations, Wang Yi welcomed the South Caucasus countries’ participation in the Global Development Initiative proposed by Xi Jinping, and expressed confidence that each of the three countries would continue to support China’s “core interests” in the form of adherence to the one-China principle and opposition to Taiwan’s independence “in any form.”

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China’s ambassador to ArmeniaFan Yong, emphasized the importance of developing Chinese-Armenian relations within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, while speaking at an 8 April forum dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

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In an article published on 2 April, China’s ambassador to AzerbaijanGuo Min, called to “join forces in a new era to create a Chinese-Azerbaijani community of a common future“.

 

 

Propaganda and Disinformation

In April 2022, Chinese media continued its disinformation campaign against Georgia targeting the Lugar laboratory.

A regular participant of this propaganda warfare, Global Times, published disinformation about the Lugar laboratory on 1, 14 and 29 April, alleging deadly human experimentation and epidemic breakouts connected to the laboratory. China News published disinformation on this topic on 19 April, using claims made by a pro-Russian Georgian politician David Tarkhan-Mouravi.

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In a material published on 5 April, Global Times continued Chinese media’s regular attacks on the 2003 democratic Rose Revolution in Georgia.

 

Economic Involvement and Connections

China was the second trade partner of Georgia and the third one of Azerbaijan in the first quarter of 2022.

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In a letter to China’s leader Xi Jinping made public on 2 April, Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev expressed support for greater involvement of Chinese companies in restoration and development works on the territories regained by Azerbaijan in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War of 2020.

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In a 5 April interview, the CEO of Huawei Technologies AzerbaijanXu Hui, stated that in 2021 Huawei carried out a ‘smart village’ project in the territories regained by Azerbaijan in 2020. Xu Hui noted that the first phase of the construction within this project had been completed.

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A new China-Europe freight train service traversing the Caspian and Black Seas was launched in the city of Xi’an, China, on 13 April. The route goes through Kazakhstan, AzerbaijanGeorgia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia and Germany where it ends in the city of Mannheim.

 

Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy

Support for the Belt and Road Initiative

In the 6 April letters to China’s leader Xi Jinping and the premier of the State Council of China, Li Keqiang, president of ArmeniaNikol Pashinyan, stated that his country considered important its participation in the Belt and Road Initiative which, wrote Pashinyan, created “new development opportunities for the region”.

Also on 6 April, Armenian ambassador to China, Sergey Manasaryan, said in an interview to Chinese media that cooperation within the BRI framework had a particular place in Armenia’s agenda.

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Azerbaijan’s ambassador, Akram Zeynalli, published an article on a Chinese website on 2 April saying that the Zangezur corridor (through southern Armenia as well as Azerbaijani territory) would in the future play an important role for the BRI as well as for China-Azerbaijan cooperation in transportation and logistics.