|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
On 12 July, China’s ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, discussed deepening of cooperation between the ruling parties of China and Georgia with the chairperson of Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze.
Ambassador Zhou Qian met with the European Socialists faction of the Georgian parliament on 19 July. The Georgian MPs said that European Socialists’ views were in concert with the Chinese Communist Party. The sentiment was reciprocated by the Chinese ambassador who said that the Chinese side would be happy “to lay the foundation for future cooperation” with the European Socialists.
In a 1 July interview with TV24, China’s ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, stressed the role of the Belt and Road Initiative in the Sino-Georgian bilateral cooperation.
The same point was made by China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, at the reception in the Georgian embassy on 8 July.
Propaganda and Disinformation
Chinese media continued its systematic attacks against Georgia’s democratic Rose Revolution of 2003. China News published a material attacking the Rose Revolution on 15 July, while China Daily did so on 21 July.
Economic Involvement and Connections
As reported on 19 July, China remained Georgia’s third trade partner with a $922.5 million turnover comprising 10.9 percent of Georgia’s trade during the first six months of 2022.
As reported on 8 July, imports from China to Armenia in January-May 2022 increased by 66.5 percent compared to the same period of 2021.
An agreement on the expansion of the Hualing Free Industrial Zone of Kutaisi (Georgia) was signed on 22 July. Georgian government officials and Chinese ambassador to Georgia attended the signing ceremony. According to the expansion plan, 22.34 hectares will be added to the existing 35.93 hectares of the Free Industrial Zone.
South Caucasus Actors Expressing Support for China
In a 1 July article, the director of the Eurasia-Azerbaijan (EurAsiaAz) international expert club, Seymur Mammadov, praised the Chinese Communist Party for “a real miracle” achieving in governing China “relying on the people, their love and trust.” Mammadov stressed that socialism with Chinese characteristics “proved to be effective and viable”.
As reported on 11 July, deputy director of the TV24 channel, Badri Nachkebia, delivered a lecture at the European University of Georgia saying that Xinjiang was one of China’s most developed provinces, and that China’s government took special care to help development of religious minorities.
The Chinese Bridge language contest held in Armenia, and reported by the country’s education ministry on 1 July, had as its theme Tianxia yijia (“under heaven is one family”) – a Chinese concept aimed at a Sino-centric international order. The annual contest is organized by the Chinese embassy in Armenia and the Confucius Institute at the Brusov State University.
On 28 July, director of the Confucius Institute at the Azerbaijan University of Languages, Rafiq Abbasov, gave a lecture on China’s military culture and military cooperation between Azerbaijan and China.
Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy
Support for the Belt and Road Initiative
At a panel held on 5 July during the Tenth World Peace Forum in Beijing, and during the reception at the Georgian embassy on 8 July, Georgian ambassador to China, Archil Kalandia, highlighted the importance of intensifying Sino-Georgian contacts within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.