|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 7 November, China’s ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, met with the European Socialists party members, including its chairman, Fridon Injia, and deputy speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Avtandil Enukidze.
Fridon Injia told the Chinese ambassador that his party “fully shares the concept and the policy of governing the country, which the Chinese Communist Party implements in your country,” and that in order to popularize China’s state governance model, the said model should be “introduced in any region or district of Georgia and its modernization [should] be done with the idea of implementing economic or social projects”.
Injia also spoke of the need to prepare a memorandum of cooperation in order to deepen the relationship between the European Socialists and the CCP.
Chinese Ambassador to Armenia, Fan Yong, held a series of meetings with Armenian political parties.
On 9 November, Fan Yong met with leaders of the National Agenda Party, Ara Hakobyan and Ara Gasparyan.
On 10 November, he met the heads of the Republican Party, Aram Sargsyan, and the European Party of Armenia Tigran Khzmalyan. The Armenian politicians reportedly expressed support for the Belt and Road Initiative as well as readiness to adopt “the successful experience of China’s economic and social development.”
On 22 November and 23 November respectively, Fan Yong held meetings with the chairman of the National Christian Party, Ara Zohrabyan, and members of the With Honor faction of the National Assembly of Armenia.
In a 4 November interview, China’s ambassador in Azerbaijan, Guo Min, promoted Chinese foreign policy concepts expressing Beijing’s readiness to cooperate with Azerbaijan in the implementation of the Global Development and Global Security Initiatives as well as building the community of common destiny for mankind.
In a 18 November meeting with representatives of Georgian think tanks, academia, political parties and media, China’s ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, said that his country “welcomed Georgia to participate in the cooperation of the Global Development Initiative.”
The Chinese ambassador also issued some anti-Western messages saying among other things that “in the last few decades, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America adopted the Western model, introducing liberal economics and democratic elections, but they have suffered a double failure – political and economic.” In contrast to the Western model of modernization, Zhou Qian said that “Chinese-style modernization would help create a society with a shared future and a new form of human civilization.”
On 29 November, Zhou Qian said in an interview that the Chinese side was ready to strengthen the Belt and Road cooperation with Georgia, and “to ensure the convergence of this project with the Middle Corridor.”
Economic Involvement and Connections
A new freight train service linking Mianyang, Sichuan province, China and Tbilisi, Georgia, was launched on 17 November. Leaving Mianyang, the train with 50 containers was expected to arrive in Tbilisi in 18 days.
SOCAR’s Baku Higher Oil School in Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei to establish a Huawei ICT Academy. Huawei pledged that the Academy would support “the transition to a digital economy,” providing students with access to “Huawei’s innovation and know-how.”