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)


8.2.2021 – 14.2.2021

Pashinyan to Xi Jinping: Armenia is eager to develop and strengthen friendly relations with China

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sent a congratulatory message to General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping on the occasion of the Chinese New Year, an Armenian news agency reported on February 12.

Pashinyan noted that Armenia was eager to “consistently develop and strengthen the traditionally friendly relations” with China.


Chinese Ambassador and Armenian representative discussed the launch of Armenia-China direct flights

On February 9, Armenpress reported that Deputy Speaker of Armenian Parliament Lena Nazaryan received the Ambassador of China to Armenia Fan Yong.

The two sides discussed the launch of Armenia-China direct flights and “the implementation of joint programs in several areas”.

According to Armenian Parliament’s press service, despite the pandemic, “the relations between Armenia and China have been maintained”.

The Ambassador and Deputy Speaker of Parliament also talked about Nagorno-Karabakh, in particular regarding the trilateral statement on ceasefire of November 9, 2020, and highlighted “the implementation of its provisions”.

The Chinese Ambassador spoke positively about the ceasefire and expressed his hope that all issues would be resolved.


Pashinyan held a meeting with the Chinese Ambassador

Fan Yong and Nikol Pashinyan. Source: Armenpress

On February 9, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan received the newly appointed Ambassador of China to Armenia, Fan Yong.

The Prime Minister wished him productive work “for the sake of the development of the Armenian-Chinese relations”.

Pashinyan remembered his visit to China back in 2019 and “impressive meetings with the President and Prime Minister of China”. He noted that the “agreements reached during those meetings are being successfully implemented”.

“Armenia and China have intensive relations; Chinese business, culture, and education are tangibly represented in our country. We are ready to consistently deepen cooperation in political, economic, humanitarian and other areas”, Pashinyan noted.

The Prime Minister also thanked the Chinese government “for the assistance to the Armenian healthcare sector in the fight against coronavirus”.

The Ambassador assured the Armenian side that he would make every effort for the development of the Armenian-Chinese relations.

The two sides exchanged views about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Pashinyan thanked China for “its impartial position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”. Fan Yong said that China supported the establishment of security, stability and peaceful cooperation in the region and supported the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.

According to Armenpress, in the context of the development of economic relations, the two sides referred to the expansion of Chinese investments in Armenia, increase of trade turnover, implementation of infrastructural programs, activation of tourist flows, as well as the cooperation opportunities on the sidelines of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Pashinyan also offered Chinese companies new investment opportunities in Armenia. The Ambassador assured him that he would convey the information to Chinese business circles.

The Chinese Ambassador invited the Prime Minister to participate in the Shanghai Expo – 2021 exhibition.


Pashinyan to Li Keqiang: Armenia values friendly relations and practical cooperation with China

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sent a congratulatory message to the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang, on the occasion of the Chinese New Year, Armenian media reported on February 12.

“May the Spring Festival bring you peace, prosperity and achievement of your goals!” Armenian Prime Minister wrote.

He noted that Armenia highly valued the development of “traditionally friendly relations and practical cooperation with friendly China”.


Confucius Institute in Georgia holds a competition for schoolchildren

Confucius Institute of Free University of Tbilisi offered New Year events in connection with the Spring Festival, Confucius Institute of Free University of Tbilisi reported on February 8. The first event was the drawing competition for schoolchildren, “China – an interesting world“.


Confucius Institute in Azerbaijan celebrated the Spring Festival

Ambassador Guo Min. Source: Azertac

On February 9, the Confucius Institute at Baku State University hosted the “2021 Spring Festival Celebration Activity”.

Azertac reported that Chinese Ambassador to Azerbaijan Guo Min and the head of the Baku State University were among the guests who participated in the online event in celebration of the Spring Festival together with teachers and students of the Confucius Institute. The online event was also broadcasted on Facebook.

“As the friendly exchanges between China and other countries in the world continue to deepen, the Spring Festival has become more and more internationalized, and a favorite festival activity for people in many countries”, Ambassador Guo Min said.


Chinese Ambassador to Azerbaijan gave an interview to the local magazine

On February 9, the Chinese Ambassador to Azerbaijan gave an interview to the Azeri Observer, the Embassy of Azerbaijan in China reported. The Ambassador discussed various topics in China-Azerbaijan relations.

Guo Min noted that during the 28 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Azerbaijan, relations between the two countries have maintained a sound momentum of rapid development, “especially with the attention and promotion from Presidents Xi Jinping and Ilham Aliyev”.

Regarding the question what were the main trading products between Azerbaijan and China and what was the forecast for the future, the Ambassador answered that electromechanical products have always accounted for about 50% share of China’s exports to Azerbaijan, with vehicles, auto parts, and clothing also among China’s top-ranking exports to the country, but in 2020, in addition to these products, China also exported a lot of medical equipment. The Ambassador also said that in terms of China’s imports from Azerbaijan, crude oil generally represents more than 90% of total imports, followed by plastics, chemicals, and wine.

“According to the Chinese statistics, the bilateral trade volume between the two countries dropped by 16.2% in the first 11 months of 2020. Given the slight increase of 1.9% in China’s exports to Azerbaijan, the reduction in the total bilateral trade is mainly attributed to the decrease in China’s imports of crude oil from Azerbaijan. This shows that the China-Azerbaijan trade structure needs to be improved, for there is still a huge space for expanding import and export categories, and the risk management ability should also be further improved,” Guo Min added.

She emphasized the words of Xi Jinping when he “affirmed” that China would unswervingly expand every trade channel possible, and we welcome more Azerbaijani products to the Chinese market.

The Ambassador expressed her belief that the trade cooperation between the two countries would grow deeper and stronger, adding that the Chinese Embassy was willing to make concerted efforts with the Azerbaijani side to expand bilateral trade.

As to attractive areas for Chinese investments, Guo Min said that the energy sector was highly attractive, and that Chinese companies had already developed some oil and gas exploration projects in Azerbaijan.

“In addition, they show interest in oil and gas transportation, petroleum refining and other mid-and downstream industries. In recent years, Azerbaijan has also seen great development in fields other than oil and gas. It has promulgated and revised related policies and regulations, and built a number of industrial parks. I believe that as Azerbaijan’s business environment continues to improve, Chinese companies will find more investment opportunities” the Chinese Ambassador said.

The Ambassador also said that China attached great importance to increasing cultural exchanges and tourism cooperation with Azerbaijan.

“Through unremitting efforts, the relevant Chinese authorities have approved the further simplification of China’s Business Visa (M) requirements for Azerbaijani citizens. Moreover, applications for China’s Individual Tourist Visa (L) by Azerbaijani citizens will be resumed” Guo Min stressed.

The Chinese Ambassador noted that in July 2020, the two countries renewed an educational cooperation agreement, increasing the number of government scholarships for exchange students between the two countries to 100 each year. She emphasized that the two Confucius Institutes established in the country had become important bases for “cultivating Azerbaijani Chinese language talents”. 

The Ambassador also noted that the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, the China Public Diplomacy Association and some other non-governmental organizations have established good cooperative relations with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Nizami Ganjavi International Center and other Azerbaijani institutions.

Guo Min said that they would continue to promote a greater development of China-Azerbaijan relations.


Chinese Ambassador praised the Confucius Institute in Azerbaijan

On February 10, the Confucius Institute at Azerbaijan University of Languages and Hangzhou University conservatory jointly held an online Spring Festival party.

Chinese Ambassador Guo Min, the director of the Confucius Institute’s Azerbaijan branch Rafiq Abbasov and others attended the event.

The Ambassador spoke about the achievements of the Confucius Institute at Azerbaijan University of Languages and expressed hope it would “make persistent efforts to continue to play a good role as a platform for cultural exchanges between China and Azerbaijan and deliver new positive contributions to deepening the traditional friendship between the two countries”.


15.2.2021 – 21.2.2021

In January, China was Georgia’s top trading partner and largest trading partner by imports

On February 19, Geostat reported that in January 2021, China was Georgia’s top trading partner – the turnover amounted to $126.5 million, 16.6% of the total turnover.

China was also Georgia’s top trading partner by imports with $99.6 million, which is 18.5% of the total imports. That is an increase of 53.1% compared to the data from January 2020 when this number was $65 million. It is noteworthy that in January 2021, Georgia’s total imports ($538 million) decreased by nearly 16.6% compared to last year when it was $645 million. From China, Georgia imported “other moving, grading, extracting or boring machinery, for earth, minerals or ores” that amounted to $40.4 million. Last year, Georgia imported only $5.8 million worth of goods in this category.

By exports, China was Georgia’s third-largest trading partner with $26.9 million, which is 12% of Georgia’s total exports. Last year, during the same period, this number amounted to $45.5 million and was 16.8% of the total exports. In January 2020, Georgia exported $40.8 million worth of copper ores and concentrates to China, while in January 2021 this number was $22.1 million.


Azerbaijan and Georgia received their first direct container train from China

The first direct container train from China to Azerbaijan arrived at the Baku International Sea Trade Port on February 17, Trend reported on February 18.

“Most of the cargo is intended for Azerbaijan, the rest will be sent to Georgia, Turkey, Romania and Italy,” the port’s press service said.

Subsequently, APM Terminals, the company that manages the Poti port on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, announced that the first direct container block train from Xi’an, China to Tbilisi would arrive on February 20.

“This is the first time that Georgia and China have been linked by direct

 container train and the journey time from Xi’an to Tbilisi took only 21 days. It is the fastest and most efficient alternative for cargo transportation between the two countries,” a statement by the APM Terminals said according to the Agenda news agency.


National Wine Agency of Georgia: Professionals will be involved in events promoting Georgian wine in China

Certified professionals will be involved to promote Georgian wine in the Chinese market and promote export growth – a Georgian news agency reported on February 12. They are to hold seminars and educational activities to popularize Georgian wine.

According to the report, China remains a strategic market for Georgian wine, and various marketing events will be held there in 2021 to increase the popularity and the export of Georgian wine.


A Georgian NGO shared a statement about a Chinese company and appealed to a company-linked PM candidate

On February 19, a Georgian NGO, Civic Idea, responded to the nomination of Irakli Gharibashvili as the Prime Ministerial candidate from the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party and addressed the Parliament of Georgia, the public and the PM candidate. Civic Idea argued that Georgia was in “a challenging situation, and one of the significant crosslines of the state’s national security runs through the Chinese-Russian interests in Georgia”.

The organization said that the Chinese state-owned company CEFC China Energy that owns 75% of Georgia’s Poti Free Industrial Zone had gone bankrupt, had not yet fulfilled its obligations and was in the process of paying off its creditors.

According to the statement, the Georgian government has not started the process of the state property return.

“The problem is augmenting day-to-day, as the strategic objects of Poti may become the property of the Russian state VTB bank, the bank to which the Chinese company owes a huge debt,” the organization claimed.

Civic Idea also emphasized that Gharibashvili used to be a well-paid employee of the Chinese state-owned company “CEFC China Energy” for a long time after resigning from Prime Minister’s post in 2015 – “The company was particularly notorious worldwide for corruption, various types of illegal machinations, bribery of high-ranking officials and other criminal offenses”.

“We appeal to the PM candidate: to explain what decision he intends to make on this issue – regarding the return of the property to the Georgian state by his former and currently bankrupt employer company that has been exposed to a number of criminal offenses?” – statement said.

Currently, the Chairperson of Civic Idea is former Georgian politician and Defense Minister, Tinatin Khidaseli.


Confucius Institute in Georgia celebrated the spring festival

On the occasion of the Spring Festival in February, Sinomedia blog published several articles on the Spring Festival and Chinese culture, authored by students of Free University’s Confucius Institute. The Facebook page of Confucius Institute at Free University of Tbilisi also shared videos about the Spring Festival recorded by students of Free University of Tbilisi who study Chinese. The Confucius Institute at Free University of Tbilisi also announced the 8th Olympiad for schoolchildren with a theme “What do we know about China?” The Facebook page of Confucius Institute at Tbilisi Open University also shared several videos associated with the Spring Festival.


22.2.2021 – 28.2.2021

Chinese Ambassador held a meeting with the Mayor of Yerevan

On February 23, the Ambassador of China to Armenia, Fan Yong, visited the Mayor of Yerevan, Hakyn Marutyan.

Marutyan congratulated Fan for taking up his new post and, as the Embassy of China in Armenia reported, “wholeheartedly thanked China for its generous assistance to the municipal government and citizens in the urban development, municipal construction and transportation facilities”.

According to the report, the two sides highly appraised the development of bilateral relations and exchanged ideas on specific cooperation projects of common interest.

“Fan said that the Chinese Embassy in Armenia was willing to continue to strengthen communication and cooperation with the Yerevan municipal government, promote local exchanges and friendly exchanges between the two countries to a new level and deepen the friendship between the people,” the Embassy of China in Armenia reported.


In January, China was Azerbaijan’s third-largest trading partner

In January 2021, China was the third-largest trading partner of Azerbaijan by exports, with a trade turnover of $216.2 million, where export amounted to $106.8 million and import to $109.3 million – Menafn reported on February 22.

In January 2020, the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to $120 million.


Chinese Ambassador: China will actively promote Belt and Road Initiative cooperation between Georgia and China

On February 25, in an interview with Sinomedia, the Chinese Ambassador in Georgia, Li Yan, discussed various topics including vaccination, Chinese language teaching in Georgia and China-Georgia relations.

“While there is a huge demand for the vaccine in China, we are ready to overcome the difficulties within our capabilities and contribute to the fair distribution of vaccines to help make the vaccine available in developing countries… Vaccines cannot be a ‘luxury item’ available to some countries. Therefore, China recently decided to supply 10 million doses of the vaccine to Covax” the Ambassador said.

She noted that China has encouraged relevant Chinese companies to export the vaccine to countries that urgently need it and allow the emergency use of Chinese vaccines.

The Ambassador also emphasized that at the next stage, China would continue to cooperate with the respective countries in various forms based on the concept of “a community of common health for mankind”, a slogan underlined by the CPC Chairman Xi Jinping.

While discussing Chinese language teaching in Georgia, Li Yan stated that Chinese language teaching in the country was already at a relatively high level of development. She noted that two Confucius institutes functioned well in Tbilisi and Chinese was taught in more than a dozen universities and schools. Li Yan was confident that Georgia would have more excellent sinologists who would “contribute to the development of China-Georgia relations and cooperation in the field of education and culture”.

The Ambassador also hoped that more and more Georgian students would have the opportunity to study in China and “be actively involved in China-Georgia friendly cooperation”.

“China will actively promote Belt and Road Initiative cooperation between the two countries, strengthen the role of the free trade agreement, deepen bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, infrastructure, culture, education, sports, science, technology, healthcare, and other fields and achieve more fruitful results,” the Ambassador said.

The Ambassador also announced that on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, the Chinese Embassy in Georgia would hold seminars, conferences and other offline and online events, where the Embassy would invite Georgians to talk about their impressions on China and discuss prospects for “friendly cooperation” between Georgia and China.


Aliyev on Chinese vaccines: Chinese partners have remained true to their commitments

On February 27, Chinese state media CGTN cited the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, regarding vaccines. Aliyev said that “Chinese partners have remained true to their commitments” and noted that Azerbaijan had yet to get any of the other vaccines it needed to receive. Meanwhile, he criticized other countries: “Despite all the statements about solidarity and combined efforts against the coronavirus, in practice, we see that the picture is completely contrary. For example, some countries buy vaccines three or four times more than they need”.


Chinese Embassy in Armenia: China is willing to make joint efforts to strengthen exchanges between political parties

On February 24, China’s Ambassador to Armenia, Fan Yong, met with the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Regional and Eurasian Integration at the National assembly of Armenia Mikayel Melkumyan, the Embassy of China in Armenia reported.

Melkumyan expressed his willingness to continue to strengthen friendly exchanges between the legislative institutions and political parties of the two countries, and was willing to promote active participation of the Armenian side in the cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative, and further develop the multilevel cooperation in different fields between China and Armenia.

Fan said that the relationships between China and Armenia have a long history, and the current bilateral relations were developing steadily, adding: “China is willing to share China’s successful experience in governance and poverty alleviation with Armenia”.


1.3.2021 – 7.3.2021

Georgian Health Minister: We have negotiations with China about the vaccines

On March 6, Health Minister of Georgia, Ekaterine Tikaradze, said that Georgia was having negotiations with China about the vaccines, First Channel reported.

“We know that two Chinese vaccines are waiting [for authorization] and they will soon receive authorization from WHO, which will be an important guarantee for us that these vaccines will be safe and that Georgia will also allow its citizens access to the Chinese vaccines” the Minister said.

According to Tikaradze, “the Chinese vaccine is made with the traditional method” and she does not rule out that the demand from Georgian citizens on Chinese vaccines will be high.

Also, the Deputy Health Minister of Georgia, Tamar Gabunia, said that discussions on the option of a Chinese vaccine have begun, but meanwhile the rollout of a Russian vaccine was not planned for political purposes, Tabula reported on March 5.

“The Chinese vaccine Sinopharm is very close to [obtaining] authorization. We started discussing this option,” said Gabunia.


Chinese Ambassador expressed readiness to support dialogue between Armenia and China in the judicial-legal sphere

On 4 March, President of Armenia’s Constitutional Court, Arman Dilanyan, hosted the recently appointed Ambassador of China to Armenia, Fan Yong.

Arman Dilanyan wished him fruitful work for the further deepening of the Armenia-China relations.

Ambassador Yong expressed readiness to support the dialogue between Armenia and China in the judicial-legal sphere.

Fan Yong and Arman Dilanyan emphasized the maintenance of continuous working contacts.


Chinese Foreign Minister: China and Russia will jointly oppose ‘color revolutions’

On March 7, Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said that China and Russia would jointly oppose color revolutions.

“We will set an example of strategic mutual trust, by firmly supporting each other in upholding core and major interests, jointly opposing “color revolution” and countering disinformation, and safeguarding national sovereignty and political security” according to MFA of China, Wang Yi said.

The Minister said that the more unstable the world was, the greater the need for carrying forward China-Russia cooperation.

Wang Yi stressed that China and Russia standing together would remain “a pillar of world peace and stability”.


Georgian Ambassador seeks to intensify cooperation between China and Georgia within the Belt and Road Initiative

Archil Kalandia and Wang Yi. Source: The Embassy of Georgia to the People’s Republic of China

On the occasion of the Spring Festival, a brief meeting was held between the Ambassador of Georgia to China Archil Kalandia and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before the reception organized by the Chinese MFA.

According to the report, the Chinese Foreign Minister positively assessed the dynamics of bilateral relations with Georgia and expressed readiness to deepen further cooperation between the two countries.

“The Ambassador congratulated the Minister the Chinese New Year and stressed the importance of further intensifying bilateral cooperation, especially in the framework of the global Belt and Road Initiative,” the Embassy of Georgia to the People’s Republic of China reported.


Li Keqiang to Garibashvili: We are witnessing fruitful achievements in various fields of cooperation

On behalf of the Chinese government, the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang, congratulated Irakli Garibashvili on being appointed Prime Minister of Georgia, a Georgian news agency reported on March 5.

He said that relations between China and Georgia had been developing steadily over the past few years and noted: “We are witnessing fruitful achievements in various fields of cooperation”.

He expressed his willingness to work with Garibashvili to promote “mutually beneficial cooperation, to substantially enrich the friendship and cooperation between China and Georgia and to achieve the prosperity of our countries”.


Georgian Ambassador took part in an event organized by the Ministry of Commerce of China

Archil Kalandia. Source: The Embassy of Georgia to the People’s Republic of China

On March 1, the Ambassador of Georgia to China, Archil Kalandia, participated in the opening ceremony of the Alcohol Drinks Distribution Management seminar organized by the Ministry of Commerce of China and the China Research Institute of Food and Fermentation.

According to the Embassy, representatives from about 30 Georgian wine companies were participating in the seminar, which was to last for two weeks.

At the opening ceremony, the Ambassador of Georgia delivered a speech, noting the growing dynamics of Georgian exports to the Chinese market and the importance of further increasing the awareness about Georgian wine.

Besides, the Ambassador held a meeting with “high-ranking representatives” of the Ministry of Commerce and the heads of the China National Research Institute of Food and Fermentation Industries Co., LTD.


Chinese Ambassador met with the Health Minister of Armenia

Source: MFA of China

On March 3, Chinese Ambassador to Armenia, Fan Yong, met with Armenia’s Minister of Health, Anahit Avanesyan.

Minister Avanesian “positively commented on the Chinese government’s major victory in the fight against Covid-19, thanked China for its support in fighting the epidemic and in improving the health and medical system, and praised China for providing vaccine aid to numerous developing countries”.

Ambassador Fan said that since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, the two countries have been in the same boat and have overcome the difficulties together.

“China is willing to continue to cooperate closely with Armenia and provide Armenia with the assistance within its capacity,” MFA of China said.

The two sides also exchanged views on strengthening cooperation in the medical field.


Chinese state media quoted editor-in-chief of a Georgian news agency News Day

On March 6, a Chinese news agency shared an article from Xinhuanet entitled “Worldwide connection: displaying China’s development blueprint, boosting confidence in global recovery – the international community hotly debate report on the work of China’s government”. Along with others, the article cited Avtandil Otinashvili, the editor-in-chief of News Day.

According to the report, Otinashvili “believes that China has set goals in areas such as economic growth, employment, import and export, and the ecological environment and other areas, and in 2021 the world will see a more prosperous, strong and confident China”.


Chinese media: At the UN, Armenia expressed its adherence to the One-China principle

On March 2, a Chinese outlet, Sina Technology, shared an article of Xinhuanet that said representatives of several countries had spoken at the 46th meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, “supporting“ China on issues related to Xinjiang and Hong Kong and “opposing relevant parties’ interference in China’s internal affairs”, as well as expressing their appreciation of “China’s achievements in fighting the pandemic”.

The article also said that Armenia had expressed its adherence to the One-China principle and “appreciated China’s determination and efforts in eliminating poverty, creating jobs… and efforts to safeguard people’s right to health and protect the environment”.


Free University’s Confucius Institute held another competition in Georgia

Free University’s Confucius Institute held an essay contest for students with a theme “China in My Eyes”, Confucius Institute at Free University of Tbilisi reported on March 4. About 40 students from various universities took part in the contest.