Author: David Batashvili, Researcher at 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-Georgia Strategic Partnership
Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party had an extremely alarmed reaction in response to a statement by Salome Zourabichvili made in an 11 November interview, which initially appeared to imply that Zourabichvili agreed Xi Jinping should face justice for the genocide of the Uyghurs.
On 13 November, Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili met with the Ambassador of China Zhou Qiang and called Zourabichvili’s statement “categorically unacceptable and alarming,” as well as being in contradiction with “the attitude of the Georgian authorities and people of Georgia towards China” and the “friendly, strategic partnership spirit of the two countries.” Garibashvili also claimed Zourabichvili had “violated the Constitution by harming the state interests, pursuing individual activities and making personal assessments of international affairs that are not aligned with the government position.” Garibashvili assured the Chinese ambassador that Zourabichvili had no say regarding Georgia’s foreign policy.
Education minister Giorgi Amilakhvari called Zourabichvili’s statement “categorically unacceptable.”
On 14 November, the Georgian Dream party chair Irakli Kobakhidze said Zourabichvili was trying to “damage the country’s interests,” calling her statement “shameful,” and saying the Georgian government had to apologize for it. Georgian Dream party executive secretary Mamuka Mdinaradze also said they had to “apologize to our friends” for Zourabichvili’s statement.
Speaker of parliament Shalva Papuashvili said Zourabichvili’s words had “created embarrassment” and were “removed from reality.” His first deputy speaker Gia Volski called Zourabichvili’s behavior “irresponsibility” and her statement “very close to maliciousness” adding that he “hoped” there was “no more insidious plan here.”
China’s Presence, Activities and Influence in the South Caucasus
Propaganda and Disinformation
The Chinese media continued its sustained propaganda campaign targeting Georgia’s democratic Rose Revolution of November 2003. On 6 November, the Global Times published another such material, connecting Georgia’s democratic revolution to CIA’s “destabilization campaigns and colour revolutions around the world.”
In an interview published on 28 November, China’s ambassador to Georgia Zhou Qian said that “opposition to new and old imperialism and colonialism corresponds to the common interests of China and many developing countries, including Georgia, and the countries of the Global South.”
On 27 November, the ambassador said: “China provided more than 200,000 vaccines to Georgia during the Covid pandemic. At that time, the United States and European countries banned the export of vaccines.”
Economic Involvement and Connections
As reported on 1 November, a new company had been established by Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan railways, with the deputy prime minister of Georgia Levan Davitashvili saying it would serve containerized cargo coming from China.
South Caucasus Actors Expressing Support for China
While taking an interview from the Chinese ambassador to Georgia, Malkhaz Gulashvili of the Georgian Times outlet said: “since I have been to China 12 times and I know that there are 39 parties in China and no one is forbidden from political pluralism and everyone can express their opinion, except for actions directed against the state and China’s security.”
On 27 November, China’s ambassador to Georgia met with the mayor of Gori Vladimer Khinchegashvili, signing a grant agreement to finance rehabilitation of stadiums in several villages of the Gori municipality.
Stances and Activities by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Benefiting China’s Foreign Policy
Support for the Belt and Road Initiative
On 18 November, at the Seventh International Silk Road Exhibition in Xi’an, China, Azerbaijan‘s trade representative Teymur Nadiroglu made a presentation on Azerbaijan’s economic, trade and logistics potential highlighting his country’s role in the Belt and Road Initiative.