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
China-Georgia Strategic Partnership
Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party leaders defended Tbilisi’s new strategic partnership with China on 1 August. The party chairman Irakli Kobakhidze called it “one of the most important foreign policy achievements” of prime minister Irakli Garibashvili. Parliament speaker Shalva Papuashvili said it was important to have as a strategic partner “one of the main players in the Middle Corridor,” and attacked the Georgian critics of the strategic partnership with China.
In an interview published in the Chinese media on 6 August, the Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili said it was “a very important decision” that Georgia and China had become strategic partners. Garibashvili called Xi Jinping “truly an exemplary leader, visionary, wise man who did great things for his great nation,” and “an inspirational leader.” He added that Tbilisi “fully supported President Xi’s initiatives,” saying they were “pro-peace, pro-progress, modernization, prosperity, and for development” thus benefiting “the entire planet.”
On 14 August, the Chinese Ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, held a meeting with Georgia’s public defender/ombudsman Levan Ioseliani. Among the issues they discussed was “human rights protection,” while Ioseliani said the China-Georgia strategic partnership was “of great significance to the two countries” and expressed willingness to actively explore cooperation with China on this basis.
Propaganda and Disinformation
China continued its campaign against Georgia’s democratic Rose Revolution of 2003. On 28 August, the Chinese Global Times outlet published China’s Security Ministry statement depicting the Rose revolution as a disruptive event “with the US intelligence department being regarded as important behind-the-scenes actors.”
At the 17 August Chinese embassy’s event for the Armenian media, ambassador Fan Yong promoted Beijing’s “three global initiatives” and the China-Armenia’s “joint building of the Belt and Road Initiative.”
Chinese ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, said in an 18 August interview that the China-Georgia strategic partnership would be deepened and that “only a small part of the Georgian society” was suspicious of it. The ambassador believes that “the main part” of the Georgian society “positively evaluates this issue.” Zhou Qian also stressed the importance of the transportation Middle Corridor running through Georgia saying it was in line with the Belt and Road Initiative.
Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy
Support for the Belt and Road Initiative
Representative of the president of Azerbaijan for special assignments, Elchin Amirbayov, said in an interview on the Chinese television that Baku considered China its strategic partner, and expressed Azerbaijani support for “harmonizing the Middle Corridor with the Belt and Road Initiative.”
Other Support for China and its Policies
During a reception at the Chinese embassy on 1 August, Georgia’s deputy defense minister Lela Chikovani “expressed her admiration for the brilliant achievements of China’s national defense and military development” as well as for Beijing’s “concept of building the community of shared future for mankind.” In the Georgian deputy defense minister’s view, the Chinese military is “an important force for maintaining world peace.”