Author: Medea Ivaniadze, Junior Researcher at Rondeli Foundation
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 Chinese Communist Party (according to the World Press Freedom Index China is nearly at the bottom of the list and ranks 179th out of 180 countries).
Former Senior Counsellor at Georgia’s UN Mission speaks about China’s “insolent” behavior towards Georgia
“China’s insolent treatment of us was felt especially strongly in the UN in 2014-16 on the issue of the reform of the Security Council. Then we coped with their completely unceremonious pressure as much as possible.
I don’t know what happened after that, but I assume that the attempts to undermine our sovereignty became even more overt and insolent,” Kvelashvili wrote on his Facebook page on 23 January.
Chinese Ambassador briefs Georgian Prime Minister on the Taiwan election, the PM reaffirms support for “the One China principle”
On January 16, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili met with the Chinese Ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian.
The Prime Minister’s website said that the conversation in the meeting at the Government Administration focused on the close friendly relations between the two countries and on prospects of future cooperation.
The report also said the following: “The Ambassador briefed the Prime Minister on the so-called elections in Taiwan, in response to which the Prime Minister reaffirmed the Georgian Government’s unwavering support for the One China principle. The parties reiterated their support for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Georgian Dream Party delegation visits China, aspires to deepen cooperation in different spheres
During January 14-20, Georgia’s ruling party, the Georgian Dream, delegation, headed by the party’s Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, visited China, Georgian Dream reported.
The delegation, which included the First Deputy Chairman of the Parliament Gia Volski, the Deputy Chairman of the Parliament Irakli Chikovani, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Nikoloz Samkharadze, the Chairman of the Sectoral Economy and Economic Policy Committee David Songhulashvili, the Chairman of the Agrarian Issues Committee Nino Tsilosani and the First Deputy Chairman of the Sports Committee Viktor Sanikidze, held meetings in Beijing and Shanghai.
On January 15, the delegation met with the Head of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party, Minister Liu Jinchao, Deputy Minister Sun Haian and the Deputy President of the Development Research Department of the State Council, Chang Laiming.
“There are many areas where relationships can be deepened. Our cooperation with China is extremely important from different points of view, political cooperation with China, economic cooperation is important for us, and this cooperation can bring very concrete tangible results for our country and population,” Kobakhidze said.
On January 16, the delegation met with the Deputy Chair of the Presidium of the National People’s Congress of China Xiao Jie.
“The parliamentary dimension of this [Georgia-China] cooperation is also very important,” Kobakhidze stressed.
On January 17, the Georgian Dream delegation met with the Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce of China, Ling Ji.
Kobakhidze said that the conversation touched on different areas, trade in different spheres, as well as cooperation in energy, transport, and tourism.
On January 18, members of the delegation met with the Deputy Chairman of the Shanghai Council, Chen Jing.
Reportedly, before the meeting the delegation visited the Shanghai Development Exhibition Center, where they were briefed about the economic plan for the development of Shanghai.
On January 20, members of the delegation met with the Head of the new free economic zone located in the Lin-gang district of Shanghai, Zhao Yihuai, and the Deputy Chairman of the Shanghai Council, Chen Jing, and visited the free economic zone.
“The potential is huge. Our desire and goal is to deepen cooperation with China at different levels and in different directions,” Kobalkhidze commented.
Georgia’s ruling party representatives defend Georgia-China relations by claiming that the West is also interested in cooperating with China
Representatives of Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, and the representatives from another parliamentary political group People’s Power – believed to be associated with Georgia’s ruling party, commented positively on Georgia-China relations, while claiming that the Western countries were also interested in cooperating with China.
At the Davos forum while speaking with journalists, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, also commented on China: “…Of course, the rapid growth of the Chinese economy is of great importance, which will also have a spillover effect on other regions and the world economy as a whole. We have a very successful relationship with China, last year I visited China and we elevated our partnership to a strategic level. All European states, the whole European Union, are interested in deepening economic and trade relations with China, therefore, it is in our interest to think about our national interests.”
On January 15, Interpressnews reported that according to Georgia’s ruling party Georgian Dream MP Givi Mikanadze, he cannot imagine “a sane person who would say that they are not interested in a partnership” with China. “One who questions why there are visits to China and strategic relations with China, [should] see how Western countries strive and how they try as much as possible to have such relations with China,” the MP said.
On January 16, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament of Georgia, Nikoloz Samkharadze, also said a similar thing. “We have received information that in Tbilisi, plainly speaking, stupid statements were made regarding the fact that we seem to want friendship with China against the West. I do not think such nonsense is worth commenting on. This is another miserable attempt by the opposition to cast a shadow on the foreign policy of the Georgian Dream”, Nikoloz Samkharadze said. Samkharadze said that before the Georgian arrived in China, “the Belgian Prime Minister was there the day before, and the people” they met yesterday “were in the US two days ago and had a meeting with Blinken”. “Therefore, having partnership relations with China does not mean going against anyone…” Samkharadze claimed. He noted that the Georgian governments foreign policy priority was to join the European Union and NATO, but at the same time, they intended to deepen partnership relations with Asian states.
On January 17, People’s Power MP Guram Macharashvili also said a similar thing: “The radical opposition does not even understand what statements it makes on this topic. While the US is trying to strengthen relations with China, Switzerland has already signed a trade agreement with China, and the European Union is trying to deepen relations, at this time, according to the opposition, Georgia should sulk to China. This is their political weakness. China is not entering, but has already entered the world politics as one of the powerful states”, Guram Macharashvili said according to Interpressnews.
People’s Power member: The hysteria that is going on against China is absolutely anti-national, and hostile to Georgia
On January 19, one of the leaders of People’s Power, Sozar Subari, commented on Georgia-China relations and targeted its critics.
“…We are and have historically been the connecting bridge between East and West. This is the function that Georgia must fulfill if it wants to take its place in today’s global world and, in this background, the hysteria that is going on against China is absolutely anti-national, against the state and hostile to our country and population. Those people who are fighting for it have already started cursing China daily and they have two objectives: first, it is the task of their supervisors to keep Georgia bound, like [a small dog], and not to conduct an independent policy; the second is personal – they consider everything related to Georgia’s success to be the government’s success, and they see even less opportunity in their future. So, these two interests coincide with each other,” Interpessnews reported him as saying.
Georgian Parliament Speaker targets opposition on critics related to China
On January 18, while talking about Georgia’s “linking role” of connecting Europe and Asia, and discussing Georgia-China relations, the Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili said that the opposition wanted Georgia to be “a ferry boat”.
“We are the only country in the region that has a free trade agreement with both the EU and China. This is exactly the function of the bridge. Our opposition wants us to be a ferry boat that whoever wants to push us and take us from one shore to another [will do so]. It is not our function to be satellites and to function as a ferry boat, to be moved where the breeze blows and going from one shore to the other on [someone’s] order…” Papuashvili said.
The Georgian Parliament Speaker claims that “everyone who stirs up anti-Chinese sentiments in Georgia is directed to disrupt the projects of strategic importance”
The Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili attacked Georgia’s Former Defense Minister over “stirring up anti-Chinese sentiments in Georgia”, Interpressnews reported on January 20.
“The Silk Road started in China and ended in Europe. We are talking about this and today, they are having an absolute hysteria, including an attempt to create anti-Chinese sentiments. I also talked about how Ms Tina Khidasheli, the head of NGO “Civil Idea” is particularly outstanding. Politicians who are embedded in the NGO sector and engage in political propaganda are a separate issue. At the same time, it is a fact that Ms Tina is financed by Taiwan, there are official [foundations], and it is clear that based on this she is trying to stir up anti-Chinese sentiments in Georgia. I encourage you to ask her, I am very interested in whether she recognises the territorial integrity of China and what is her attitude towards Taiwan, from which she receives money. This is interesting because we are dealing with the former Minister of Defence, who had access to secret information and now that she is engaged in lobbying by financing an unrecognized state, I think this is a separate problem for our security,” Papuashvili claimed.
While talking about the Middle Corridor, Papuashvili continued: “The people who oppose it, what interests and funding are behind these people? It is a fact that everyone who stirs up anti-Chinese sentiments in Georgia is directed to disrupt the projects of the strategic importance of Georgia, to turn Georgia into a dead end and not a corridor”.
Another news article also reported Papuashvili’s comments – while he was discussing the alleged “funding” of Khidasheli he added: “We were talking about this when we talked about foreign influences in Georgian politics and how the non-governmental sector is used to influence Georgian politics”.
Tinatin Khidasheli answered Papuashvili’s attack and among other things said that “Civic Idea” had never received any funding from the Taiwanese government.
European Socialist Party condemns Taiwan’s elections
On January 15, the “European Socialists” party published a statement condemning Taiwan’s elections while praising China.
The statement said that the party believed that “any action directed against the fundamental principles of state sovereignty of the One China and promotion of separatist activities” was “unacceptable”.
“At the same time, we call on external forces to refrain from gross interference in the internal state affairs of the People’s Republic of China, from provoking the escalation of the situation, and to promote the peaceful implementation of the One China principle,” the statement said.
The party “emphasized” their gratitude to China, “as one of the most important strategic partners of Georgia”, for “unwavering and active support of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia at the international level”.
GD MP comments on the Anaklia port project and Chinese companies
Regarding the development of Anaklia deep-water port, Georgia’s ruling party, the Georgian Dream MP Mikheil Sarjveladze reportedly said that Chinese companies had had a chance to be involved in the port construction process even before the establishment of strategic relations with China, and in this regard, after the establishment of strategic relations, nothing had changed.
The Interpressnews also reported him saying that China had stated clearly that it supported the territorial integrity of Georgia, which, according to him, is taken into account in many documents, and he added the following: “But if it is not in one of the documents, it cannot have any negative impact on China’s clear position”.
The 18th China-Europe freight train route is launched
On January 20, China’s state media People’s Daily reported that a new international freight train route opened between Xi’an, China’s Shaanxi Province, and Poti, a port city in Georgia. Reportedly, it marks the establishment of the 18th main route operated by the China-Europe freight train (Xi’an) service.
China’s MFA speaker praises Georgia
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that the “one-China principle” was a prevailing international consensus and a basic norm governing international relations, People’s Daily reported on January 19.
The speaker said that more countries and organizations had spoken up by various means. Among those countries the Chinese speaker named Georgia.
“We highly commend these countries and organizations,” Mao said.
Azerbaijan supports “the one-China policy”, condemns Taiwan elections
On January 13, the MFA of Azerbaijan wrote that Azerbaijan supports “the one-China policy”. It continued to state that Azerbaijan “does not recognize the independence of Taiwan and condemns conducted elections”. According to the statement, Azerbaijan is against interference in China’s internal affairs.
Armenia supports “the one-China principle”
On January 15, Armenpress reported that when asked to state Armenia’s position regarding the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election, Armrenia’s MFA speaker Ani Badalyan said that “Armenia has always supported the one-China principle”.
Georgia’s Ambassador to the UAE appointed as an Ambassador to China
On January 24, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili met with Paata Kalandadze, the newly appointed Ambassador of Georgia to China.
Reportedly, the key directions of the strategic partnership between the two countries and the priorities in the relations with China were discussed.
The Prime Minister and the newly appointed Ambassador discussed issues “pertaining to the implementation of the plans” set during Garibashvili’s July visit to China.
The report said that in different years he had held various positions at the Foreign Ministry and was Georgia’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Israel. Before being appointed Ambassador to China, Kalandadze was Ambassador of Georgia to the United Arab Emirates.
Armenia’s former Deputy Foreign Minister Vahe Gevorgyan becomes the new Ambassador to China
Armenia’s former Deputy Foreign Minister Vahe Gevorgyan was appointed as the new Ambassador of Armenia to China, News.am reported on January 11. The next day, the Chinese Ambassador to Armenia Fan Yong invited the newly appointed Armenian Ambassador to the Chinese Embassy.
According to the Embassy report, Gevorgyan noted that it was a great honour for him to work in China again after 20 years. He expressed his readiness to strengthen ties and coordination with China.
The Chinese Ambassador attends the opening of the Council of Sinologists in Armenia
On January 9, the Ambassador of China to Armenia Fan Yong attended the online ceremony of the founding of the Council of Sinologists in Armenia and gave a speech. The Chinese Embassy in Armenia reported that the event was organized by the Beijing Language and Culture University.
Georgian Times “survey” names Chinese Ambassador “the Diplomat of the Year”
On January 15, the Georgian Times reported that it had conducted “a journalistic survey in various categories” and according to the organization, the Chinese Ambassador to Georgia, Zhou Qian, was named “the Diplomat of the Year” and “the signing of Georgia-China Strategic Partnership Agreement” as “the event of the Year”.
The news was also reported on the website of the Embassy of China to Georgia.
An author of a China Daily article suggests that the China-Central Asia Summit may extend to the South Caucasus
On January 24, the founding director of the Turkish Center for Asia Pacific Studies in Ankara, Turkiye, Selcuk Colakoglu published an article in China’s state media China Daily.
The author suggested that “the China-Central Asia Summit, which was held for the first time in 2023, may extend to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkiye to discuss Belt and Road cooperation”. According to him, “the expanded China-Central Asia Summit can function as an institutional mechanism to realize full compatibility between the Middle Corridor and the BRI”.
Georgia’s Deputy Prime Minister meets Chinese multinational corporation Neusoft representative
The Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Levan Davitashvili met with Chen Shimen, the Senior Deputy President of the Chinese multinational corporation Neusoft, 1TV reported on January 17. The meeting was held within the framework of the participation of the Georgian government delegation at the Davos Forum.
Davitashvili invited the delegation of Neusoft to Georgia to study the current situation in the information technology sector of Georgia.