Author: Medea Ivaniadze

The digest covers China’s political, diplomatic, economic and other activities in the South Caucasus region and relations between China and the South Caucasus countries. It relies on a wide variety of sources, including the Chinese media. It is worth noting that the Chinese media is controlled by the Communist Party of China (according to the World Press Freedom Index China is nearly at the bottom of the list and ranks 177th out of 180 countries)

A note to readers: From now on, our digest will come out every two weeks.


8.3.2021 – 14.3.2021

Armenian Defence Minister met with Chinese Ambassador

Armenia’s Minister of Defense Vagharshak Harutyunyan received Chinese Ambassador Fan Yong, an Armenian news agency reported on March 11.

They “highly appreciated the Armenian-Chinese cooperation in the political, economic, humanitarian, educational and other sectors and the close cooperation in the defense sector”.

According to an Armenian news agency, the Defense Minister expressed confidence that the Armenian-Chinese interstate relations and political dialogue would be further strengthened and that “new quality would be conveyed to the relations through the active and effective work of the Ambassador”.


Chinese Ambassador says he is grateful for the work of the Confucius Institute in Armenia

Chinese Ambassador met with Gor Sargsyan and other representatives of Confucius Institute. Source: The Chinese Embassy in Armenia

On March 12, the Ambassador of China to Armenia Fan Yong visited the Confucius Institute at Yerevan Brusov State Linguistic University, the Embassy of China in Armenia reported.

The Ambassador thanked the Confucius Institute for its contribution in promoting the development of “friendly relations” between two countries. He also stated that the Chinese Embassy in Armenia would continue to support everyone in teaching Chinese and would attract more Armenian young people to study Chinese language and culture.

Director of Confucius Institute Wang Chanjuan, Armenian Director Gor Sargsyan, teachers, and others thanked the embassy for its “care and consideration” and said that they would work hard to promote cultural exchanges and cooperation between the two countries and enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples.


China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research praised the development of China

On March 11, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua published an article, “Global Connection: China’s unswerving promotion of high-quality development is good for the world – the international community follows closely the achievements of China’s ‘lianghui’ [two sessions/the National People’s Congress and the National People’s Political Consultative Conference] in 2021”.

According to the article, commenting on this topic, the Director of the China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research, Armenia, Mher Sahakyan said that China took the path of “high-quality development” suitable for local reality and that this idea of development could be used as a reference by the developing countries.

Mher Sahakyan has recently become a member of the foreign part of the editorial board of the Institute for the Research of Economics and Social Problems of Globalization journal at Georgia’s ‘European University’.


Chinese magazine wrote about Georgia 

On March 9, the Georgian Embassy in China reported that, as a result of the cooperation between the Embassy of Georgia to China and China’s leading outbound investment facilitator, the Internet platform Victwo, its Chinese and English magazine was dedicated to Georgia’s investment policy, international ratings, Georgia’s opportunities to establish a transit, trade and logistics hub in the region and also its tourism potential.


Director of Eurasia-Azerbaijan praises China

Seymur Mammadov, the director of Eurasia-Azerbaijan (EurAsiaAz), an international expert club, and editor-in-chief of Azerbaijan’s news agency published an article “What’s behind China’s economic success in 2020?” in Chinese state media China Daily, the Embassy of China in Azerbaijan reported on March 10. The author praised China’s actions regarding the pandemic, “victory over poverty”, economic growth and “assistance” to other countries. Mammadov characterized the Chinese authorities’ control of the pandemic as “successful”.

Mammadov stressed that Europe and the US “should not try, fearing some very far-fetched Chinese threat, to ’drown’ China in a swamp of problems and sanctions”, but to aim to reach a new level of friendship and cooperation with Beijing – “as the fruits of such actions will undoubtedly be greater”.


15.3.2021 – 21.3.2021

Director of Georgia’s NCDC: Georgia might soon receive Chinese vaccine

According to the Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia Amiran Gamkrelidze, Georgia might soon receive Chinese vaccines, Interpressnews reported on March 16. 

“China is one of the largest manufacturers of vaccines,” Gamkrelidze said, adding that the two Chinese vaccines, Sinopharm and Sinovac, were “already on the verge” of receiving authorization from the World Health Organization. 

Gamkrelidze stressed that Georgia was negotiating with both manufacturers through diplomatic channels, and contracts had already reached the point where one of the Chinese vaccines might soon be introduced in Georgia. 

“How many doses there would be and how often they would be delivered, is a subject of the contract,” said Gamkrelidze.


In February, China was Georgia’s third-largest trading partner

On March 19, Geostat reported that in February 2021, China was Georgia’s third-largest trading partner – the turnover amounted to $193.7 million, which was 11.7% of the total turnover.

China also was Georgia’s third-largest trading partner by exports with $53.8 million (share of 10.9% in total exports) – that is a fall of 13% compared to the same period last year.

China was Georgia’s second-largest top trading partner by imports – $139.9 million, which was 12.1% of the total imports. That is an increase of 5.8% compared to the data from February 2020 when this number was $132.2 million.


Chinese Ambassador met with the Minister of Infrastructure of Armenia

Source: The Chinese Embassy in Armenia

On March 16, the Chinese Ambassador Fan Yong met with the Minister of Infrastructure of Armenia Suren Papikyan.

According to the Chinese Embassy, they expressed willingness to strengthen cooperation in the transportation, irrigation works and other infrastructure construction between China and Armenia.


The article by the Chinese Ambassador published in a Georgian news agency

On March 19, the article of the Ambassador of China to Georgia Li Yan was published in a Georgian news agency News Day. In the article, Li Yan discussed China’s “victory on poverty”.

“The [Chinese Communist] Party never forgets its foremost aspirations and mission and tirelessly fights for the happiness of the Chinese people and national rejuvenation,” the Chinese Ambassador noted.

Li Yan noted that alleviation of extreme poverty is not the end of the story while referring to China as a developing country. The Ambassador wrote that China is ready to share with the world the theory and practice of poverty alleviation and the Chinese experience.


Gamkrelidze: Negotiations to bring Chinese vaccine are over

On March 18, the Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia Amiran Gamkrelidze said that negotiations over the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm, to bring certain doses to Georgia, were over. He did not discuss other details.

“As you know, Sinopharm and Sinovac would have the authorization from the World Health Organization,” Gamkrelidze said according to the First Channel.


22.3.2021 – 28.3.2021

Chinese Embassy and an Armenian state news agency held an online exhibition about “Poverty Alleviation in China”

On March 26, an Armenian state news agency Armenpress reported that the Embassy of China in Armenia with information support from Armenpress had held an online photo exhibition “Aspiration for Better Life” dedicated to “Poverty Alleviation in China”.

The exhibition is presented on a website with videos of the Chinese Ambassador to Armenia Fan Yong and representatives of Armenia. 

“We want to share with you our practices and experiences and walk with you to build a shared future for mankind,” Fan Yong said. 

Deputy President of the National Assembly of Armenia Lena Nazaryan said that poverty alleviation was an unprecedented event.“ It is hard not to agree with the statement by the Chinese President that it was the largest and most active campaign to eradicate poverty in the history of humanity,” Nazaryan said referring to “Poverty Alleviation in China”.

Nazaryan noted that developing relations with China was one of the priorities of the Armenian foreign policy. She expressed hope that China would play an active role in the region “especially in promoting and building peace, modernization, and sustainable development”. 

Director of Armenpress Aram Ananyan thanked the Embassy of China and Chinese Ambassador for implementing the joint project. The Director of Confucius Institute in Armenia Gor Sargayan, Deputy Director of AMBERD research institute at Armenian State University of Economics Vadar Atonyan, the Head of China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research Mher Sahakhyan also recorded videos on China and poverty alleviation.


Green Line Company: Since September, shipping cost from China increased by 400% 

One of the founders and the CEO of the shipping company Green Line, Rezo Khvichia said that since September shipping costs from China had increased by 400%.

“The cost of shipping cargo from China increased by about 400% since September, compared to previous tariffs. If the cost to bring one container was $2,500, from September that amount has become $10,000,” BMG quoted Khvichia as saying, on March 29.


Georgian Ambassador to China gave another lecture about China and the pandemic 

On March 23, Georgian Ambassador to China Archil Kalandia gave an online lecture in Zoom to a Georgian audience about “the challenges of China’s foreign and domestic policy amid a global pandemic”.

The ambassador reportedly discussed “how China managed to maintain economic growth during the pandemic, what preventive measures have been taken to effectively manage the spread of the virus and what were the prospects for the Global Belt & Road Initiative”.

Hosts of the Facebook event were Free University of Tbilisi and its Confucius Institute.


Chinese Ambassador to Armenia visited Chinese-Armenian Friendship School 

Ambassador Fan Yong during the visit. Source: Chinese Embassy in Armenia

On March 23, Chinese Ambassador to Armenia Fan Yong visited Chinese-Armenian Friendship School and met with the Director of the School Spartak Vardanyan, representatives of Confucius Institute and teachers from the school.

According to Vardanyan, the school had more than 400 students and Chinese was the students’ first foreign language. As he said, the schools’ projects were aided by the Chinese government.

Fan Yong noted that the school had further stimulated the interest of young Armenian students to learn the Chinese language. He said that Chinese-Armenian Friendship School was a symbol of the friendship between the two countries and also “a bridge and link to inherit and strengthen the friendship between the two peoples”.

The Ambassador Fan donated a batch of Chinese textbooks to the Chinese-Armenian Friendship School.


Confucius Institute in Azerbaijan continues the Understanding China project

On March 22, Azertac reported that with the support of the Confucius Institute at Azerbaijan University of Languages, the Chinese language and culture class entered the classroom of the 42nd School in Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. The article noted that was one of the activities within an online project, Understanding China.

The topic of this lesson was “The Pearl of China and Azerbaijani Culture: Marionette”.


29.3.2021 – 4.4.2021

Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan: China honourably fulfils its obligations, including COVID-related issues

On April 1, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Ramiz Hasanov said that China honourably fulfilled its obligations to Azerbaijan.

“Being a responsible partner, China honourably fulfils its obligations in relations with Azerbaijan, including those related to COVID-19… We hope to continue developing our ties at a very high level,” Trend news agency quoted the Minister as saying.


2.6% of survey respondents say Armenia should strengthen its cooperation with China

A survey was conducted in Armenia in which citizens were asked which countries or organizations Armenia should strengthen its cooperation with in their view, Armenpress reported on March 31. 

As Aram Navasardyan, Director of MPG LLC, a full member of Gallup International Association in Armenia, stated, 2.6% of respondents said Armenia should strengthen its cooperation with China.


Chinese Ambassador to Azerbaijan writes about China-Azerbaijan relations

On April 2, on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Azerbaijan, Chinese Ambassador to Azerbaijan Guo Min published an article entitled “Thousand-year friendship on the Great Silk Road” on website.

The Ambassador discussed China-Azerbaijan relations, the pandemic and other issues. 

“Both sides firmly support each other in choosing the path of development following their national realities and develop friendly relations and cooperation based on the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and also peaceful coexistence,” the Ambassador wrote. 

Guo Min noted that China and Azerbaijan were ready to continue deepening political mutual trust and expanding practical cooperation in various fields between the two countries.


China donates $15 million to Armenia

China is to donate Armenia 100 000 000 yuan under a new Chinese-Armenian cooperation agreement, Armenpress reported on April 1.

According to the Armenian news agency, the money would be used for building a new studio of the Armenian Public Television and implementation of other jointly agreed projects.


Chinese Ambassador: We would like to share our success in poverty alleviation with Armenia

On 31 March, in an interview with Armenpress, the Chinese Ambassador to Armenia discussed the “Chinese model of poverty reduction” and other issues. 

According to the Ambassador, China’s secret of success in fighting poverty was the “leadership of the Communist Party of China, the people-centered approach, the political advantage of socialist system and strategy of targeted poverty alleviation”.

The Ambassador claimed that poverty alleviation with Chinese characteristics, such as “targeted poverty reduction”, was drawing more and more attention from the international community. 

“We wish to share our success and experience with our Armenian friends,” the Ambassador stressed.


The Health Minister of Georgia claims that public trust in the Chinese vaccine is high

On March 31, the Health Minister of Georgia Ekaterine Tikaradze claimed that public trust in the Chinese vaccine was high. 

“As far as we know, the public trust in the Chinese vaccine is much higher, since it is made with the traditional method, so this should also be taken into account,” the Minister said.


Georgia has received 100 000 Sinopharm vaccines

BBIBP-CorV (Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine) in Georgia. Source: National Center for Disease Control & Public Health, Georgia.

On April 3, Georgia received 100 000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.

Tamar Gabunia said that dozens of countries used the Sinopharm vaccine and more than 40 million people were vaccinated.

Gabunia also said that “studies” on the vaccine have shown very good results and said that the Georgian side expected that by mid-April the vaccine would receive the World Health Organization’s authorization for emergency use.

“At present, the vaccine is authorized by a stringent regulatory, the Hungarian drug agency, which fully fits within our legal framework and gives us liability insurance in case of using the vaccine… We think it would be available from the second half of April,” Gabunia stated.


Georgia bought Chinese Sinopharm with the assumption that it would be authorized 

Georgia bought Chinese Sinopharm with the assumption that the vaccine would be authorized by the end of April, Deputy Health Minister of Georgia Tamar Gabunia said on April 4. 

“Sinopharm would take the place that other vaccines in the vaccination program have.” According to Gabunia, as in the case of AstraZeneca and Pfizer, the public would be able to choose Sinopharm within a certain limit. 

Gabunia said that from the following week Georgia would be ready to start vaccinating with the Sinopharm, but said that for a certain period of time, two weeks, they would wait for the authorization of the World Health Organization:

“There are legal grounds for the use of Sinopharm even today and the choice may be made by the citizen, but our approach was to use WHO-authorized vaccines, and we think there wll be more confidence and goodwill once it gets the authorization”.


China to donate 100 000 doses of Sinovac to Georgia

On April 1, the Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia Amiran Gamkrelidze said that Georgia had purchased 100 000 doses of Chinese vaccine Sinopharm while 100 000 doses of another Chinese vaccine Sinovac would be donated. 

“According to the preliminary information, [WHO] should evaluate and authorize [the vaccines] in early April, therefore, there would be relevant decisions in Georgia as well,” Gamkrelidze said.

Amiran Gamkrelidze emphasized that more than 80 million people had been vaccinated with these two Chinese vaccines. He also listed countries that used those vaccines. 

Gamkrelidze noted that Chinese Sinopharm was more expensive ($18-20) than vaccines from Pfizer/BioNtech ($11-12) and Oxford/AstraZeneca ($4-5). 


Azerbaijan purchased more Chinese vaccines

CoronaVac (Sinovac Covid-19) vaccines at the Airport in Baku. Source: Xinhua/Caspian News

On April 1, another batch of Chinese vaccine, Sinovac arrived in Azerbaijan. It was the first batch that arrived directly from China, Caspian News reported.

According to the agreement signed on March 21, Azerbaijan was to get five million doses. On April 1, the country received 500 000 of them. 

Chinese Ambassador to Azerbaijan Guo Min said that the next batch would arrive in late April and added that Azerbaijan would soon get another 150 00 shots of the vaccine free of charge.


Director of Eurasia-Azerbaijan published an article in Chinese state media

On April 2, on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Azerbaijan, Seymur Mammadov, director of Eurasia-Azerbaijan (EurAsiaAz), an international expert club, and editor-in-chief of Azerbaijan’s news agency, published an article on the China Global Television Network (CGNT) website: “A new chapter in China-Azerbaijan cooperation”. 

Mammadov praised China’s assistance to Azerbaijan during the ongoing pandemic and discussed the China-Azerbaijan trade route. 

“It’s also worth talking about economic relations that are expanding between our countries. With the launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and the expansion of the implementation of the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China and Azerbaijan have become closer and need each other now more than ever,” Mammadov wrote.


Ambassadors and envoy from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia visited Xinjiang

On April 4, Chinese state media published an article entitled: “Witnessing the real Xinjiang, foreign diplomats debunk lies”.

The article says that from March 30 to April 2, a delegation of more than 30 diplomats from some 21 countries visited Xinjiang.

According to the article, Akram Zeynalli, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to China, said that the machines at a textile enterprise in Aksu, Xinjiang were highly advanced and that he did not see anything negative in the working area or the staff living quarters: “I feel very good visiting here”.

Another Chinese media outlet reported that the delegation also included the Armenian Ambassador to China (Sergey Manassarian) and the envoy of the Georgian Embassy (David Pipinashvili).

The report says that they visited the Xinjiang international exhibition center and “Xinjiang’s anti-terrorism and de-radicalization fight-themed exhibition”. They were accompanied by Chinese government officials. 

The delegation visited an exhibition in Xinjiang. Source: Tianshan Net

According to the report the delegation was to go to Xinjiang’s Urumqi, Kashgar, Aksu and other places to visit exhibitions, see religious activities, schools, visit the families and participate in the event “Xinjiang is a good place”.

According to another Chinese state media, the Armenian Ambassador was “deeply impressed” by the school in Kashgar: “This school has a perfect teaching environment. The most important thing is that parents can freely choose to let their children lodge or go to school according to the actual situation… The statements of some Western media are completely inconsistent with the facts we saw today personally”.


The Chinese Ambassador: We would be glad if more Georgians visit and enjoy prosperous, stable Xinjiang

Badri Natchkebia and Li Yan. Source: TV 24

On March 31, the Chinese Ambassador to Georgia Li Yan gave an interview to the CEO of TV 24 Badri Natchkebia, where the Ambassador discussed “poverty alleviation” in China, China’s two major political sessions (Lianghui), the changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system and the situation in Xinjiang. 

While discussing “poverty alleviation” in China, the Ambassador said that China was ready to continue to work with developing countries, “including Georgia, to share its experience in governance and poverty alleviation, to help build the Belt and Road [Initiative], to create mutually beneficial cooperation, and to build the community with shared future for mankind”.

The CEO of TV 24 asked the Ambassador to tell about the “improvement” in Hong-Kong’s electoral system. The Ambassador claimed that since 1997 China’s government-operated in “strict compliance with the constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong and contributed to the development of Hong Kong’s democratic political system”.

Natchkebia asked the Ambassador about what was the reason for Xinjiang’s success, where he also commented that he visited Xinjiang many times in the past and every time he was “amazed and pleased with the development and change there and the stability and unity of the society nowadays”.

When the Ambassador was answering the question she noted that in Xinjiang people lived and worked “peacefully” and it was “the best period of prosperity and development in the history of the region”. 

Li Yan said that in various fields Xinjiang was an important participant in business cooperation between China and Georgia and noted that after the end of the pandemic, they would be glad if more Georgians visited and saw Xinjiang, to “personally experience the real development of the region and enjoy the picturesque, prosperous and stable Xinjiang”.


Director of Eurasia-Azerbaijan praised China over vaccines, criticized the West

On March 30, Seymur Mammadov, director of Eurasia-Azerbaijan (EurAsiaAz), an international expert club, and editor-in-chief of Azerbaijan’s news agency, published another article in Chinese state media outlet China Daily, “EU needs dose of reality about ‘vaccine diplomacy’”. 

Mammadov defended China’s policy on vaccines and criticized the West, writing that as part of “vaccine diplomacy”, China found itself caught in some new conspiracy theory involving vaccines and stressed that some of the motives behind this “game” by the West were “quite obvious”.

Mammadov also praised the “effectiveness” of the Chinese vaccines and at the same time questioned the credibility of the European and American vaccines: “[these vaccines] have their flaws”.