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 Chinese Communist Party (according to the World Press Freedom Index China is nearly at the bottom of the list and ranks 177th out of 180 countries)

  • Chinese state corporation previously sanctioned by the World Bank is considering opening a regional office in Georgia
  • Armenian Minister of High-tech Industry and Chinese Ambassador discussed cooperation prospects
  • Chinese Ambassador speaks of cooperation with Georgia on creating “a community of common health”
  • In January-June 2021, China was Georgia’s third-largest trading partner
  • During the first six months of 2021, China was Azerbaijan’s third import partner
  • Chinese Ambassadors address Confucius Institute Chinese language contest participants in Georgia, Azerbaijan
  • Armenian scholar voices Anti-Western, Pro-Beijing messages, suggests Armenia should consider withdrawing from the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance


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12.7.2021 – 18.7.2021

Chinese state corporation previously sanctioned by the World Bank is considering opening a regional office in Georgia

Natia Turnava, Giorgi Chikovani, Levan Vepkhvadze and the Chinese delegation. Source: Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia

On July 14, Georgia’s Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development reported that its Minister Natia Turnava had met with the president of a Chinese state corporation, Dongfang Electric. According to the Ministry, they discussed the current situation in the energy sector and the liberal investment environment in Georgia.

According to the Dongfang Electric president, the corporation is considering opening a regional representation in Georgia. It was said that Dongfang, one of the three largest manufacturers of machinery for power plants in China, plans to invest in Georgia’s energy sector, especially in renewable energy, as well as cooperate in major energy projects planned in the country.

Natia Turnava provided the Chinese side with detailed information on the current situation in the energy sector of Georgia, the country’s energy potential and the liberal environment for investment and business. The Minister noted that it was important for Georgia to receive new international investments, for which the Georgian Government was actively working.

Giorgi Chikovani, the Director of the Georgian Energy Development Fund, and Levan Vepkhvadze, the Executive Director of the Georgian Business Association, also participated in the meeting.

It’s noteworthy that in 2019, the World Bank announced a 15-month debarment of the Dongfang Electric Corporation in connection with fraudulent practices while bidding on a $60 million power project in Liberia. The World Bank wrote that “during the bidding process, Dongfang falsified two letters asserting that the manufacturer of a type of equipment had authorized Dongfang to supply and install that equipment, which is a fraudulent practice, Dongfang did not ultimately win the contract”.

In 2015, the Dongfang Electric Corporation agreed to invest $200 million to build 150 megawatts thermal power plant (TPP) in Tkibuli, Georgia. The agreement was signed on behalf of the Government of Georgia by Kakha Kaladze, then Minister of Energy and presently Mayor of Tbilisi. Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili also attended the event. In 2016, an amendment was made according to which a thermal coal plant was planned to be built in Gardabani instead of Tkibuli. In November 2017, Dongfang Electric Corporation and Georgian CPower signed a $250 million contract for the construction on a 300 megawatts thermal power station in Gardabani Municipality that was planned to begin in 2018 with the commissioning deadline in the last quarter of 2020. The news on the project has not been updated since.


Armenia and China discussed cooperation prospects in the high-tech industry

Fan Yong and Hayk Chobanyan. Source: Armenpress

Armenian Minister of High-tech Industry Hayk Chobanyan received a Chinese delegation led by the Chinese Ambassador to Armenia Fan Yong, Armenpress reported on July 15.

Hayk Chobanyan noted that it was extremely important for Armenia to develop a high technology industry with the goal of ensuring the country’s development and security, and, in this context, cooperation with China, “as a developed industrial country”, was of key importance. He highly praised China’s achievements in the fields of high technologies, digitalization, innovation, military industry and said that Armenia was interested in developing cooperation with China in all directions.

Chobanyan suggested that the Ambassador consider the possibility of implementing joint educational programs with the National Polytechnic University of Armenia and Chinese universities. The Minister invited the Ambassador and Chinese companies to participate in the Digitec Expo exhibition.

Ambassador Fan Yong said that he had also talked about the importance of the Armenian-Chinese cooperation in high technologies during the meetings with the Armenian Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. According to the report, the Ambassador expressed readiness, in addition to educational institutions, to promote the development of Armenia’s cooperation with Chinese business companies.

The two sides also discussed the possibilities of implementing joint research programs on the use of technologies in the high-tech industry, healthcare, agriculture, renewable energy and other fields.


During first 6 months of 2021, China was Azerbaijan’s 3rd import partner

During the first six months of 2021, China was Azerbaijan’s third import partner with $697.4 million, an Azerbaijani news agency reported on July 17.

Azerbaijan’s exports in January-June 2021 amounted to $8.8 billion of which 1.6% ($140.8 million worth of goods) was exported to China. During that period, China was the 15th export partner for Azerbaijan.


China and the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia are ready for future cooperation

Ashot Saghyan and Fan Yong. Source: The Embassy of China to Armenia

On July 14, the Chinese Ambassador to Armenia Fan Yong met with Ashot Saghyan, the new President of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia.

The Chinese Embassy in Armenia stated that they were willing to further strengthen communication with the Armenian Academy of Sciences and promote scientific and technological cooperation to achieve new results.

Saghyan congratulated the Ambassador on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP and praised the “achievements” of the Chinese Communist Party for leading the Chinese people “to explore a development path in line with China’s national conditions”.

He remembered his personal experience of many visits to China and the “good cooperative relations he established with Chinese partners”.  Saghyan said that as the only recipient of the Chinese government friendship medal in Armenia, he was willing to actively promote Armenia-China scientific and technological cooperation and strengthen scientific and technological exchanges between the two countries. Saghyan noted that relevant Chinese organizations were welcome to send experts to Armenia for visits and exchanges.


Chinese Ambassador: We are ready to continue close communication with Georgia for making more contributions to create “a community of common health”

On July 15, Geoecohub published an interview with the Chinese Ambassador to Georgia Li Yan. Journalist Lika Zhorzholiani asked the Ambassador about the July 1st celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the CCP, speech made by General Secretary of CCP Xi Jinping, the “secret of success” of CCP, and what “peaceful, stable and developed China” could do for the world with the leadership of CCP. The Ambassador answered about the event and Xi’s speech, traditionally praised the Communist Party and discussed China’s goals and policies.

According to Li Yan, “the Chinese side is ready to continue close communication with the Georgian side, deepen international cooperation against the epidemic, including in the field of vaccines to support each other and defeat the epidemic as soon as possible, contribute to the stability and growth of the global economy and make more contributions to create “a community of common health”.

The Ambassador also said that they were very happy that the Georgian government and also Georgian society “positively evaluated and trusted” the Chinese vaccines and a “large part of the society” was actively vaccinating.

As of July 15, only 4.3% of Georgia’s adult population were fully vaccinated. At that time, mostly Chinese vaccines were available for the majority of the population.


2 915 TEUs from China were transported to Turkey via the BTK line

On July 12, ADY Container reported that during the first six months of 2021, 11 084 TEU containers have been transported by the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway route including 2 915 TEUs from China transported to Turkey.


Chinese Ambassador: Azerbaijan-China friendly relations are successfully developing in all areas, including education

Guo Min attends the event. Source: UNEC

The Chinese ambassador to Azerbaijan Guo Min attended the ceremony of awarding certificates to graduates who successfully completed Chinese language distance courses at the Azerbaijan State University of Economics, UNEC reported on July 14.

Guo Min said that Azerbaijan-China friendly relations were successfully developing in all areas, including education. The Ambassador was satisfied by the growing interest in the Chinese language in Azerbaijan and noted that it would contribute to the further expansion of fraternal relations between the two countries.

Azerbaijani MP Soltan Mammadov stressed that the Chinese language courses initiated by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation’s Vice-President Leyla Aliyeva played an important role in the direction of the development of education in Azerbaijan. He said that the project would have a positive impact on high-level economic and cultural ties between the two countries.

The head of the Azerbaijani Language department of Beijing University of Foreign Languages Agshin Aliyev and the Director of the Confucius Institute Rafiq Abbasov said the project would further strengthen friendly relations between Azerbaijan and China.

UNEC Vice-Rector, Associate Professor Anar Rzayev thanked the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the Chinese Embassy in Azerbaijan, Confucius Institute and Beijing State University for their support.

Chinese language courses began at UNEC in 2019.


Confucius Institute in Azerbaijan held another contest

Ambassador Guo Min. Source: The Embassy of China in Azerbaijan

On July 15, the final of the Chinese Bridge Language Proficiency Competition for students was held online, hosted by the Confucius Institute of Azerbaijan University of Languages.

Guo Min urged the contestants to grow as the successors of the cause of the China-Azerbaijan friendship.


Armenian scholar publishes anti-Western, pro-Beijing article in Chinese state media

On July 14, the Chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies in Yerevan, Benyamin Poghosyan, published an anti-Western and pro-Beijing article in Chinese state media outlet China Daily entitled “China’s foreign policy raises Armenia’s hopes”.

He criticized the US and characterized American sanctions against China and Russia as “the US-led West’s double standard and hypocrisy” for not “accepting US global hegemony”.

Poghosyan wrote that China was left alone as the sole power which was striving for fair international relations and that  “Chinese President Xi Jinping’s concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind was the only alternative to the predatory policies of the great powers”.

He also wrote that China was the only power that has “never bullied or invaded” any country, while saying that “the histories of major European countries and the US are plagued by colonialism, the slave trade and other abhorrent violations of human rights and human dignity”.

According to Poghosyan, China’s development and growing strength are a source of hope for small countries such as Armenia, “whose interests have for long been sacrificed by the great Western powers”. He thinks that the Belt and Road Initiative is another manifestation of China’s foreign policy aimed at win-win cooperation.

Poghosyan wrote that together with Iran and Georgia, Armenia was working to launch the “Persian Gulf-Black Sea” international multimodal transport corridor to connect Iran with Europe and noted that Armenia believed this corridor could be integrated into the Belt and Road Initiative – providing another route for China to reach Europe via Iran, Armenia, Georgia and the Black Sea.

Poghosyan emphasized that Armenia should support China in areas significant for Beijing and, as a minimum requirement, refrain from participating in projects that are “hostile” to Beijing.

He also stressed that in this context, Armenia could consider withdrawing from the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance or issue a statement that Armenia would not sign any declaration or document of the Alliance criticizing China, “as the Alliance was established by the US with the motive of using it as a propaganda tool against China and exploiting the issue of religious freedom, to interfere in China’s internal affairs”.

It is noteworthy that Armenia joined the international Religious Freedom Alliance in June 2020.

According to the UG Security Platform, in 2013 Poghosyan was a Research Fellow at the US National Defense University College of International Security Affairs and is a graduate of the US State Department Study of the US Institutes for Scholars 2012 Program on US National Security Policy-Making.


EurAsiaAz Director wrote about Huawei-Azerbaijan cooperation in China Daily

On July 17, Seymur Mammadov, the director of the Eurasia-Azerbaijan (EurAsiaAz) international expert club and editor-in-chief of Azerbaijani news agency Baku Tribune, published an article in a Chinese state media outlet China Daily, entitled “Baku-Beijing relations enter new stage”.

Mammadov wrote about Azerbaijan-China relations and the recent phone conversation between Ilham Aliyev and Xi Jinping. He also wrote that Baku and Beijing attached special importance to the development of trade and economic ties. In this context he wrote the following:

“Huawei-Azerbaijan is already helping with the telecom infrastructure restoration work in the country. As a leading information and communications technology company, Huawei is ready to use advanced technologies in the development of “smart villages”.

He noted that for the first time in Azerbaijan, Huawei was using “AirPON Gigabyte” technology, which according to Mammadov has already been brought to the notice of the Azerbaijani President.


19.7.2021 – 25.7.2021

In January-June 2021, China was Georgia’s third-largest trading partner

Georgia’s top trading partners (%) (January-June 2021). Source: Geostat

On July 19, Geostat reported that in January-June 2021, China was Georgia’s third-biggest trading partner – the turnover amounted to $652.6 million (10.5% of the total turnover).

China was Georgia’s top trading partner by exports with $289.8 million which was 15.4% of Georgia’s total exports and amounted to a growth of 40.7% compared to the same period of 2020. The top export item from Georgia to China was copper ores and concentrates, comprising 81.1% of Georgia’s total exports to China ($235.1 million).

During the first half of 2021, China was Georgia’s third-largest partner by import with $362.7 million (8.4% of total imports). Compared to the same period of 2020, that was a growth of 11.4%.


Georgia’s export/import with China (January-June 2021). Source: Geostat

Share of copper ores and concentrates in Georgia’s exports to China (January-June 2021). Source: Geostat


Georgian Railway: The volume of container shipments in the direction of China-Europe is at a record high

On July 20, the Georgian Railway reported that the volume of container shipments in the direction of China-Europe through Georgia was at a record high. In the first six months of 2021, 4679 containers (TEUs) were transported, which was 266% more than in the last year.


China plans to transit cargo via block trains through Azerbaijan to a Dutch port

On July 20, Trend published an interview with the Head of the Strategic Planning and Development Department of the Baku International Sea Trade Port Khudayar Hasanli, in which he said that China planned to transit cargo to the Dutch port of Venlo via block trains through Azerbaijan.

Hasanli also noted that cargo transportation between China and Turkey was increasing and the export of these goods through Azerbaijan was “expected to grow rapidly”.


Georgian Ambassador to China seeks to popularize Georgian wine

The agreement signing ceremony. Source: The Embassy of Georgia to China

On July 19-20, the Ambassador of Georgia to China Archil Kalandia met with Li Qiuxi, the President of “one of China’s largest alcoholic drink companies”, Fenjiu, in Shanxi province, China.

After the meeting, a cooperation agreement was signed between the Georgian Dugladze Wine Company and Fenjiu, which includes raising the awareness of Georgian wine in the Chinese market and holding joint events.


Chinese Ambassador to Georgia delivered a speech at the student contest of Confucius Institute

Li Yan. Source: The Embassy of China in Georgia

The final of the Chinese Bridge Language Proficiency Competition for students was held online at Tbilisi Free University’s Confucius Institute, Chinese Embassy in Georgia reported on July 19.

Chinese Ambassador to Georgia Li Yan addressed the participants. Li Yan introduced the “great development achievements” of the Chinese people under the leadership of the CCP for over 100 years while emphasizing that China was committed to pushing forward establishing a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. She noted that this corresponded to the theme of the contest, “[The land/All] under heaven [is] one family” (Tianxia yijia 天下一家).

The Ambassador urged every contestant to continue to contribute to the cause of friendly cooperation between China and Georgia.