|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 31 July 2023, during the Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili’s visit to China, Tbilisi and Beijing announced establishment of the China-Georgia strategic partnership. The joint statement stressed Georgia’s support for Beijing’s Global Security Initiative, Global Development Initiative, and Global Civilization Initiative, as well as Tbilisi’s belief “that Chinese modernization offers a new path and a new option for mankind to achieve modernization.” Tbilisi also pledged to “promote the establishment of a new type of international relations” and “promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind” together with Beijing. Georgia also once again stressed its support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative and said it would “strengthen policy coordination and synergy of development planning” under the BRI together with China.
On 6 July, China’s ambassador to Armenia, Fan Yong, presented to a group of Armenian members of parliament Beijing’s diplomatic concepts: Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and Global Civilization Initiative.
Economic Involvement and Connections
According to the Georgian statistics agency Geostat’s information, China was the fourth trading partner of Georgia by turnover during the first six months of 2023, which amounted to 7.7 percent of Georgia’s total turnover.
During the Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili’s visit to China in late July, he met with the Premier of the State Council of China Li Qiang, discussing among other things “the directions of the development of 5G technologies and the creation of data centers, the digital corridor”, and the establishment of a regional digital hub in Georgia.
South Caucasus Actors Expressing Support for China
On 28 July, one of the leaders of the People’s Power party in Georgia, which is closely tied to the ruling Georgian Dream party and is consistently engaged in anti-Western rhetoric, Dimitri Khundadze, claimed that “China openly declared that it would help Georgia to return the temporarily occupied territories”.
The Chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies in Armenia, Benyamin Poghosyan, made a comment published by the China Daily outlet on 7 July saying that Xi Jinping’s statements at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization virtual summit aligned “with the interests and aspirations of people from various countries,” and demonstrated ”China’s responsible role as a major country.” According to Poghosyan, they also “contributed to regional and global peace and development.”
Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy
Support for the Belt and Road Initiative
During the Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili’s visit to China in late July, he said that Georgia’s long-term development strategies were closely aligned “with the objectives of the Belt and Road Initiative.”