|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 20 October, Chinese ambassador to Armenia, Fan Yong, held meetings with leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Party, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, and the Communist Party of Armenia, Yerjanik Ghazaryan. Chinese embassy statement stressed Beijing’s willingness to cooperate and exchange experience in managing state affairs and promoting common development with foreign “friendly political parties.”
In an article published on 30 October, China’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Guo Min, called for China and Azerbaijan to “build a community with a shared future for mankind” which she equaled to standing on the right side of history and human progress and creating a better world. Guo Min also expressed readiness “to deepen practical cooperation between the two countries in the joint construction of the Belt and Road.”
In a 29 September speech, China’s ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, said that “together with Georgia and other countries, China would spare no effort for peaceful development, take responsibility for joint progress, and work with other countries to create a community with a shared future and a better world together.” He also stressed Beijing’s will to continue developing the Belt and Road Initiative together with Georgia.
In a 24 October article Zhou Qian stressed that China promoted “a community of a common destiny, true multilateralism, a new type of international relations.” He wrote that that China actively participated “in the reform and construction of the global governance system” giving “the world the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative.” Another theme in the ambassador’s article was a historical excursus about “the rise of Anglo-America was achieved by the capital accumulated by the brutal pillaging of the colonies and the bloody slave trade, which cannot and should not be repeated.”
In an interview published on 31 October, Zhou Qian said that “business cooperation between the two countries in the Belt and Road Initiative” was deepening, expressing his expectation that the process would continue in the future. The ambassador stressed that “the Chinese government attached great importance to the development of the Middle Corridor with the Georgian side within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.”
China’s ambassador to Armenia, Fan Yong, also wrote of China’s readiness to build the community of the common destiny for mankind together with his host country in his article published on 27 October.
Propaganda and Disinformation
The Chinese disinformation campaign targeting Georgia continued in October 2022. China News published an article on 11 October targeting the Lugar research center with accusations of using people as trial subjects who then died by dozens. This same outlet’s material from 18 October targeted Georgia’s democratic Rose Revolution of 2003 calling it “instigated and planned by the United States.”
Economic Involvement and Connections
According to a 21 October statement by Georgia’s economy minister, Levan Davitashvili, the freight turnover in the Middle Corridor (running between China and Europe through Central Asia, South Caucasus and Turkey) had increased by 30 percent in 2022.
South Caucasus Actors Expressing Support for China
On 11 October, the head of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies (Armenia), Benyamin Poghosyan, published an article in the China Daily writing: “The CCP always values people-centered development and promotes balanced urban-rural and regional development to lead the Chinese people toward the goal of common prosperity. Political parties in many countries can learn from China’s successful experience.”
In an October 20 article published in Chinese state-controlled outlet People’s Daily, Georgia‘s ruling Georgian Dream party MP and the head of the Georgia-China Parliamentary Friendship Group, Giorgi Amilakhvari, praised the Chinese Communist Party saying it “has always been devoted to contributing to human peace and development, leading China to become an important power in maintaining world peace and promoting shared development.” According to Amilakhvari, China pursues “an independent peaceful foreign policy”, and firmly opposes “all forms of hegemonism and power politics.” Amilakhvari also endorsed Beijing’s concept of “shared future for mankind” adding that Georgia attached great importance to its relations with China.
In a 21 October material published by People’s Daily, Georgia’s Geoecohub journalist, Liana Jorjoliani spoke of “China’s open attitude” and its willingness “to share its successful experience and reform results with the world.” According to Jorjoliani, the 20th CCP National Congress was an event of global significance with her being greatly impressed by the anti-corruption and ecological conservation messages of the National Congress report.
Director of the international expert club EurAsiaAz and editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani news agency Baku Tribune, Seymur Mammadov, published an article in China Daily on 21 October, praising Zi Jinping’s speech at the 20th CCP National Congress, finding Xi’s concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind to be “of particular interest.” Mammadov thought it encouraging that “Beijing promotes the idea of humanity as a single society,” and opined that “Chinese modernization is modernization without revolutions, conflicts, wars and violence.”
In a CGTN material published on 22 October, Azerbaijan’s CBC TV journalist, Albina Abdurakhmannova, said: “We all know that the main goal of China’s foreign policy is to promote world peace and the common development of mankind. I think we, as the media, should send this signal to the world faster and better.”
On 21 October, the Khazar University of Azerbaijan opened its China Research Center. The Center is co-sponsored by the Beijing Language and Culture University’ World Sinology Center. China’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Guo Min, pledged that her embassy would fully support the Center, expressing hope that it would “make contributions to building a shared future for mankind.” Director of the World Sinology Center, Xu Baofeng, who is also the dean of the Beijing Language and Culture University’s Belt and Road Research Institute, stated that the World Sinology Center was connected to nearly 5,000 sinologists from more than 100 countries.
Director of the Confucius Institute of the Azerbaijan University of Languages from the Azerbaijani side, Rafiq Abbasov, stated that his Institute had been awarded as the Best Confucius Institute in 2021 and 2022.
Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy
Support for the Belt and Road Initiative
As reported on 2 October, the speaker of the Parliament of Georgia and member of Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party, Shalva Papuashvili, expressed Georgia’s willingness to actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Armenian ambassador to China, Sergey Manassarian, praised the Belt and Road Initiative in his 26 October comments, saying it “aimed to push forward the economic, social, and cultural development of countries and regions along its route.” In Manassarian’s opinion, “with the continuous implementation of the Belt and Road initiative, the well-being of people in the countries and regions along the route will also be further improved.”
In his 28 October comments, Azerbaijani Ambassador to China, Akram Zeynalli, said that his country “was willing to continue to work with the Chinese side to promote the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative and deepen bilateral and multilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road framework.”
On 29 October, Georgian ambassador to China, Archil Kalandia, said that “Georgia was a country along the Belt and Road Initiative with an advantageous geographic location and a highly competitive market environment,” adding that jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative was an important opportunity for his country.