CHINA WATCH

China’s Activities in the South Caucasus Issue 37, 21.02.2022 – 27.02.2022

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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)

  • China’s BYD company discusses establishment of plants in Georgia, Azerbaijan
  • Aliyev says, there is no reason why Azerbaijan’s status in the SCO should not be upgraded, but this isn’t happening
  • Chinese state media repeated Russian propaganda on the NATO enlargement
  • Kutaisi and Xi’an plan to sign a memorandum of friendship
  • China shows interest in potential cooperation with Armenia in raw materials for cosmetics

 

China’s BYD company considers Georgia one of the locations for business development

Photo from the meeting. Source: Georgia’s Ministry of Economy

On February 23, Georgia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Levan Davitashvili met with Isbrand Ho, Executive Director of “a large technology and innovation corporation“, Chinese manufacturing company BYD (Build Your Dream) Europe’s Office and his entourage. Deputy Ministers of Economy Irakli Nadareishvili and Guram Guramishvili also attended the meeting.

Reportedly, BYD Corporation, “one of the largest manufacturers of electric cars, buses and electric batteries in the world“, plans to expand in the region and consider Georgia as one of the locations for business development.

Davitashvili provided information to potential investors on Georgia’s investment climate and liberal business environment. He also noted government business support programs in Georgia, noting that government support and development programs for large institutional investors were “successfully operating in the country“.

The parties agreed to continue working to further develop cooperation with BYD Corporation.

In 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published research where it identified 82 foreign and Chinese companies potentially directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through abusive labor transfer programs as recently as 2019. BYD was one of them.

 

Azerbaijan and China’s BYD company discuss the establishment of a plant in Azerbaijan to assemble cars

Photo from the meeting. Source: Ministry of Economy of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan’s Minister of Economy Mikayil Jabbarov and a Chinese manufacturing company, BYD (Build Your Dream) Europe’s Office Executive Director Isbrand Ho discussed establishment of a plant in Azerbaijan to assemble electric buses as well as hybrid and fully electric cars, Ministry of Economy of Azerbaijan reported on February 22.

They also discussed Azerbaijan’s economic priorities, measures taken in the field of application of environmentally friendly technologies, the use of environmentally friendly vehicles, and the prospects for partnership in this area. They proposed that Chinese companies take advantage of the favorable business environment created in their country.

Isbrand Ho talked about the company’s activities and shared his views on the potential of the partnership.

 

Aliyev says, there is no reason why Azerbaijan’s status in the SCO should not be upgraded, but this isn’t happening

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said that his contacts with the leadership of Russia, China and other members of the SCO show that there was no reason why Azerbaijan’s status in the SCO should not be upgraded, although this was not happening for “unknown reasons“.

According to Azernews’s February 23 report, the Director-General of Interfax agency, Mikhail Komissar asked him if Azerbaijan could now move towards the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), taking into account “that not so long ago the situation with Karabakh was to some extent resolved“. Aliyev responded:

“The point is that as far as the SCO is concerned, we are already involved in a certain sense. We have been a dialogue partner for more than a year now. This is the first step. The second step is to be an observer. Several years ago, we officially applied to the SCO Secretariat to upgrade our status to that of an observer, but, unfortunately, this issue has not yet been resolved. And my contacts with the leadership of Russia, with the leadership of the People’s Republic of China and with other members of the SCO in this context show that there is no reason why our status should not be upgraded. But this is not happening for reasons unknown to us“.

 

Chinese state media repeated Russian propaganda on the NATO enlargement

On February 26, Chinese state-controlled media CGTN published an article on Russia’s war against Ukraine entitled “NATO’s vulnerability is doomed upon touching Russia’s bottom line“. In an article, CGTN repeated Russian propaganda on the NATO enlargement:

“In the face of NATO’s enlargement, the Russian government is clear that Ukraine is its bottom line. For centuries, Russia has regarded the Black Sea as vital to its security. Once the Western military bloc – originally established as a counterbalance to the Soviet Union – grants Ukraine and Georgia memberships, it will form a strategic encirclement of Russia from north to south, tremendously crippling the country’s strategic advantages in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has witnessed former Soviet states slowly inching closer to the West. Until the NATO made it obvious of its ambitions in ’nibbling’ at Ukraine and Georgia, the Russian government had been resorting to intense diplomacy for its security demands. Its attack in Ukraine has sent a clear signal to the West: The country will apply all its resources to prevent this former Soviet state from being dragged into the Western bloc. Any tolerance on Ukraine’s NATO admission will put Russia’s strategic survival at risk“.

 

Kutaisi and Xi’an plan to sign a memorandum of friendship

Archil Kalandia and Ioseb Khakhaleishvili. Source: The City Hall of Kutaisi

The Mayor of a Georgian city, Kutaisi, Ioseb Khakhaleishvili talked to the Ambassador of Georgia to China Archil Kalandia about the initiative of Kutaisi and the Chinese city of Xi’an becoming friend cities. On February 23, the City Hall of Kutaisi reported that a memorandum of friendship between Kutaisi and Xi’an would be signed in the spring 2022 with the support and direct involvement of the Embassy of Georgia in China.

Ioseb Khakhaleishvili said that it was desirable to sign the memorandum on May 2, Kutaisi City Day. He expressed hope that the epidemic situation would be normalized and the parties would have the opportunity to meet directly and sign the memorandum.

 

China shows interest in potential cooperation with Armenia in raw materials for cosmetics

Cheng Wei, Sergey Manassarian and othes. Source: Ifeng

On February 24, China’s Phoenix News media reported that China’s anti-aging promotion committee cosmetics industry branch’s Belt and Road cosmetics industry international cooperation and exchange activities had been officially launched. The leaders of the association-led member companies visited the Armenian Embassy in China and had a discussion with the Ambassador to China, Sergey Manassarian, a business representative and others.

According to the Chairman of the cosmetics industry branch and Chairman of the Belt and Road Initiative cosmetics industry international cooperation forum, Cheng Wei, “China’s cosmetics industry imports a large number of characteristic raw materials from abroad every year, which is an important opportunity for cooperation between the two parties“. He also said that Armenia’s “high-quality characteristic resources and good business policies” were the foundation for cooperation.

He also noted that they were willing to invite more member companies to understand Armenia, its investment environment, policies, and to promote economic cooperation and cultural exchanges between member companies and Armenia.

It was also said that the association would contribute to the promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative and “the friendly exchanges and cooperation” between China and Armenia.

 

Confucius Institute in Armenia held an event

The Confucius Classroom in Armenia’s Anton Chekhov School and Confucius Institute at the Brusov State University in Yerevan held a cultural experience activity “Celebrate the Spring Festival, Celebrate the Lantern Festival“, the Brusov State University reported on February 25. Chen Ming, Counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Armenia, attended the event.

 

Confucius Institute in Azerbaijan held an activity in kindergarten

The Confucius Institute at the University of Languages in Azerbaijan held an “educational and entertaining“ “China’s Happy Pandas-themed“ children’s activity at a kindergarten Indigo in Baku, Azertac reported on February 23.

 

Armenian schools held an event related to China’s culture ​​

The Chinese-Armenian Friendship School, N135 School and Anton Chekhov School in Armenia held cultural activities related to the lunar New Year, the Chinese Embassy in Armenia reported on February 24. China’s Ambassador Fan Yong and others attended the event. At the event, the Ambassador also talked about China-Armenia cooperation.

 

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