Security Alliances and Cooperation in Pandemic and Conflict

The dynamics of international relations have been fundamentally altered by the global pandemic’s far-reaching impact and Russia’s full-scale conventional warfare in Ukraine. The common understanding stood that the post-coronavirus era would usher in a new world order, with the invasion of Ukraine and the imposition of sanctions against Russia further bolstering this contention. While the entire democratic world is concentrated on fighting one crisis after another, we also see the shifts in the behavior and positions of individual states, security alliances and international organizations.

International society is in the middle of significant transitions, revising goals and values and adjusting new policies toward the changing world order. It is the time to redefine the terms, mandates, search for new partners and new allies, and mark red lines. It is exactly the objective of this essay, to identify specific problems and policy shortcomings revealed amid recent global developments and the absolute necessity for the security alliances to consider, building resilience and boosting effective and timely cooperation with relevant parties aimed at rapid response and effective prevention of crises in the future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has become the most unprecedented global challenge the world has faced since World War II. The early alarms regarding the outbreak were elusive and unbelievable for all, resulting in the absence of prompt reactions and a number of political, economic, and health policy setbacks. In line with these obstacles, the virus has also shown the states their own insecurities. Countries acted spontaneously, and prioritized individual needs as opposed to collective strategies within the alliances to combat the virus jointly. The lack of solidarity at the initial stage negatively affected the mobilization, coordination, and allocation of necessary resources to combat the pandemic in the early phase. Together with uncoordinated action, unfamiliarity with the virus, the absence of sufficient medical equipment and treatments, and the shortages of vaccines caused total chaos in the world. In the early stage of fighting the pandemic EU and NATO missed the most important asset, unparalleled knowledge and strength available to them when joining forces and getting into collective action. Hence, the crisis instigated a severe blow to the world population and struck the global market as well, leaving long-term damaging consequences.

Timely assessment and recognition of failures and shortcomings brought by individual action strengthened democratic alliances and brought us to the strongest ever united democratic front against the unprovoked and unjustified full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine.

Why did this happen only now? It certainly is not the first demonstration of Russian aggression. The events of 2008 and 2014 have already exposed Russia to stirring up conflicts, occupying territories of independent states, and then using them as leverage to manipulate its neighbors, prevent progress, and their integration into the Western economic and security alliances. The democratic world united against Russia only after Kremlin turned the conflict that started in 2014 into a full-scale war in Ukraine, bringing back fear of war in Europe and reminding the largest and strongest alliances, the EU and NATO of their original mission to keep Europe united and in peace. The war in Europe facilitated rapid change in policies and caused an increase in defense spending and arms production.

Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, it is important to highlight two additional issues: the PRC and its role in the new world order and the threat of global nuclear conflict.

The Chinese factor is a common feature of the pandemic and the war since it is equally relevant in both cases. The PRC’s concealment of the covid outbreak, information manipulation, and subsequent wide-scale “covid diplomacy” led to the massive transmission of the virus, nurturing disastrous global economic and health crises. The Chinese factor is also noteworthy precisely because of the global game it has played so far, according to which, on the one hand, it calls itself the “peacemaker”, and on the other hand, as an authoritarian state, provides indirect economic and military support to another authoritarian state, Russia, against the Western security alliances.

The war in Ukraine also revived the concept of nuclear security as the risks of inadvertent nuclear escalation increased. It likewise highlighted the ineffectiveness of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, thereby raising doubts about the credibility of security alliances and the promises they have made, placing the onus on them to offer complete support to Ukraine. Therefore, as long as nuclear weapons are in the hands of authoritarian states, this issue should not lose its relevancy for security alliances, as mismanagement will have enormously irreversible results for the whole world.

The crisis of the last years brought the existing international world order under huge pressure. The experience of the pandemic proved that we could take nothing for granted and even the strongest alliances, united by the strongest bonds of common values, markets, and security dilemmas, might crumble against the invisible and unknown enemy. However, success is determined not only by how we react initially but, more importantly, by recognizing shortcomings, accurate assessment, and immediate action for improvement and eradication of causes of failures. Regardless of all the problems, democracies came out more robust from the covid crisis, even more, enchanted by the magic of unity and solidarity.

Rigorous and reliable cooperation under the umbrella of security alliances serves as vital mechanisms for collective action, fostering the consolidation of resources, expertise, and collaborative endeavors to effectively confront shared challenges while promoting global security and stability. Different from and learning from the mistakes of covid pandemic, Russia’s brutal aggression in Ukraine unified the democratic world and facilitated an even stronger commitment to peace and liberty based on respect for the sovereignty of the democratic states and freedom of choice over partnership and alliances. Faced by the brutality of conventional war in Europe, brought the alliances to look ahead and pay special attention to authoritarian states beyond Russia, creating leverage by initially reducing cooperation, and lowering economic/diplomatic dependence on them. With these means and united action, we aim at rapidly preventing future crises, the security alliances must never stop working to develop even more efficient universal policy directives for themselves and to share with the partner parties.

Ani Kintsurashvili – Author of the Article, Senior Researcher, Civic IDEA

An attempt to show the EU’s unity in relations with China – Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen in Beijing

From April 5-8, 2023, world’s media focused on Beijing, where French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with senior officials from the People’s Republic of China, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang. Given the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and rising tensions in Sino-American relations, this state visit was thought-provoking. What were the main goals, issues, and outcomes of the visit? I will try to answer these and other questions in this blog.

EU-China Relations and Europe’s Strategic autonomy

No to decoupling, yes to de-risking

Russia-Ukraine War

Taiwan issue

Other important results of the visit


In conclusion, we can say that the joint visit of Macron and Leyen to China was an attempt by European leaders to show their unity with regard to the EU’s foreign policy towards Beijing. It is true that on some issues, Macron acted more like a “good cop”, while Ursula chose a “bad cop” stance and at times criticized Chinese policy on several issues, including Taiwan and human rights in the Xinjiang region. However, the two EU leaders did manage to agree on two key messages: On the Russia-Ukraine war, they told President Xi that arming Russia would significantly damage EU-China relations and China should be actively involved in ending the war. Regarding EU-China relations, their message was that the EU does not follow the U.S. strategy of “decoupling” and prefers to “de-risk” from China. Time will tell if this strategy is effective or not.

Giorgi Khachidze Author of the Blog, Intern, Civic IDEA

Friends With(out) Limits: key takeaways from Putin – Xi Jinping meeting

On March 20, 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping embarked on his first visit to Russia since the beginning of the Ukraine war. The three-day visit conveyed significant signals to the international community and highlighted the burgeoning partnership between the two powers.

Here are some key takeaways from the meeting:

The warm meeting between the two leaders that took place despite these implications is a message in and of itself.

The Ukraine War

Economic and Energy Cooperation


“New Era of Cooperation”

International Response


In conclusion, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia has clearly shown his support for Vladimir Putin and the strengthening partnership between the two countries. The meeting highlighted close economic ties and cooperation in the energy and military sectors, as well as shared concerns over NATO’s growing military-security relations with the Asia-Pacific region. The invitation extended by Xi to the Russian Prime Minister during the visit is also indicative of the deepening cooperation between the two nations.

Nutsa Dzandzava – Author of the Blog, Intern, Civic IDEA

LOOKING FORWARD: The Future of China-Central Asia Relations

Establishing political background

Warm Welcome of China ‘help’ in Central Asia

Uzbekistan is no more in isolation


All member states of the SCO recognize digitalization as an essential step to development. SCO member states have thus welcomed China’s eagerness to share and sell its tech-driven practices and insights. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has made digitalization one of his most urgent tasks and focused on emulating the Chinese model. Kazakhstan praised China’s success. Pointing to a specific Chinese company, Hikvision, he said the company’s techniques “have gone far ahead, they deeply digitalized all major cities. You click on the screen, the data on the person comes out, including literally everything. When he graduated from university, where he goes in his free time, and so on … We need to go in this direction. This is a global trend. I set this task just before our capital’s leadership”. Countries are set on a long-term path of reliance on Chinese technologies, with limited development of local capacity. In a worst-case scenario, this reliance – combined with a lack of local capacity – exposes Central Asian countries to deep potential national security problems, with the little domestic capability to manage these things themselves.

Green Finances

It is trendy in the age of digitization to move the economy to green color, investing more in green and self-sustaining development projects. For example, European countries are interested in investing in green energy, and Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic are rich in water resources and could self-sustain in the coming decades if investing in their development now. Overburdening developing countries with large loans as the Sri Lanka experiment showed, does not bring any good.

Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

China’s long-term policy toward its Western frontier

20th National Congress of the China Communist Party held on 16-20 October 2022 in Beijing. The congress concluded by approving the members of the standing committee and politburo (2296 members-delegate) and, for the third term, approved the selection of the Secretary-General of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, for the next five years.

Humiliation of predecessors

Western frontier – Central Asian countries

The importance of this engagement is the broadening of China’s historically economy-led (Chinese public and private investment and commerce) presence in the region to include hard power – strategy-security-military dimensions too. Friendly and neighboring states that are more aligned with their foreign policy prerogatives and long-term economic calculus. Underestimates the extent to which China is prepared to recouple and deepen trade ties – selectively – in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

What Central Asian countries think about China?

Central Asia Barometer is a Bishkek-based nonprofit that engages in applied social science research. It conducts large-scale public opinions surveys in the Central Asia twice annually. One key question is how respondents perceive about China.

In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan the most common response to this question is “somewhat favorable.” Yet in all three countries, when asked about China, the share of people giving a favorable answer has dropped noticeably in recent years.

Kazakhstan has faced more pressure in the last five years from China as Kazakh authorities deal with local anger at the Chinese government’s forced detentions of ethnic minorities (especially Uyghurs) in the Xinjiang region.

Combined Heat and Power plant (CHP) in August 2017.

The 4-year modernization of the city’s only source of heat for over half a century was initiated by the ex-president, and cost $386 million, which was borrowed from China on credit. The contractor chosen for the project, Tebian Electric Apparatus Stock Co LTD (ТBЕА), which built two new boiler units, each with an emission capacity of 150 megawatts (MW) of power and 150 gigacalories of heat.

On 26 January 2018, during a period of unusually hard frosts, an accident at the CHP plant led to a four-day breakdown of its heating system.

Kyrgyzstan’s member of parliament demanded that the culprits be put behind bars and took themselves en masse to the CHP plant to discover why the boilers had packed up.

Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

Kazakh’ minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Turkish-speaking minorities under oppression

The oppression of Turkic-speaking indigenous peoples professing mainly Islam, forced sending of Uyghur, Kazakhs and others to “political re-education camps”, seizure of their passports, placement under so-called house arrests. Many minorities of Xinjiang have fled China for fear of detention. The Kazakhs are the second largest Turkic-speaking ethnic group in Xinjiang after the Uyghurs and estimated around 1.2 million people.

The protests

Kazakhs in Uyghur Tribunal

    Sterilization + Birth Control = Genocide

    Xinjiang and Central Asia: What’s Going On!

    Since 2017, there have been reports from China of harassment of Turkic-speaking indigenous peoples, who profess mainly Islam, the forced sending of Uighurs, Kazakhs and others to “political re-education camps”, the confiscation of their passports, and the placement under so-called house arrests. In recent years, many members of Xinjiang’s indigenous ethnic groups have fled China for fear of detention. China’s policies are sharply criticized by Western countries, including the United States, which call what is happening in Xinjiang genocide. Beijing rejects the accusations, calling the camps “vocational training centers” set up to fight extremism and terrorism.

    Central Asia support in solving the problem of Xinjiang. This means deporting any requested Chinese citizens of several ethnic groups– Uighurs, Kazakhs or Kyrgyz – back to China. Illegal border defectors are in most cases immediately sent back without ascertaining whether the person is seeking refugee status. This worked quite successfully for a while, but internal pressure from the Kazakh population on their government also led to the authorities slightly softening their position for ethnic Kazakhs. Kazakhstan’s political elites are now in a very difficult situation.

    China also appreciates regional support for the Xinjiang issue in the international arena. Central Asian countries, which have consistently voiced their support for Beijing, have proven to be an important counterweight to Western voices, and it has become clear that Central Asian countries are more likely to side with China than the West. In addition, from time to time we see politicians from Central Asia talking in Chinese newspapers about supporting China’s policy towards Taiwan or supporting China’s national security law in Hong Kong. This is purely political influence of Beijing in order to form its own support group, although the region may not know or be interested in the situation in Taiwan or Hong Kong, but Central Asian leaders simply agree with Beijing’s position.

    Beijing’s political influence is that Beijing should get what it wants. For a long time, China only wanted support on its domestic issues, but that is changing. Now China is dissatisfied with anti-Chinese sentiment among the local population in Central Asia and is asking political leaders to solve this in some way. This is a more direct intervention that can polarize the relationship between the political class of Central Asia and the local population. Repeatedly, representatives of the Chinese embassy came to complain about how poorly China is portrayed in the Kyrgyz media, they told Kyrgyz politicians that this is a bad practice of good neighborliness. The situation is similar in Tajikistan, there is a hidden message that the anti-Chinese position is a crime, so there are no protests there, citizens can be arrested for this. In Kyrgyzstan, police are also arresting and threatening leaders of anti-China protests, and at the moment, people can still complain about China, but China is already demanding that Central Asian governments prevent this.

    Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

    Digital Silk Road in Kazakhstan: surveillance and censorship under the veil of security

    The complicated geopolitical situation that has arisen as a result of the war in Ukraine, as well as large-scale Western sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus has raised a new question about how the Belt & Road Initiative will develop in the future. This is especially of concern to Kazakhstan, which has managed to take an important role in transcontinental routes. The blocking of the Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian directions puts an end to the most important routes going to Europe. Bypass routes through the Caspian or the Middle East are working, but the cost of transportation and the labor costs of the trans-Caspian route are significantly inferior to the sea routes.

    Under these conditions, BRI partners, including Kazakhstan, are setting the task of cultivating new points of growth in such areas as artificial intellect, big data, digital finance, e-commerce, and green energy. The implementation of this approach largely explains the sharp increase in trade turnover between Kazakhstan and China in 2022. The trade turnover between Kazakhstan and China in January-July 2022 reached $13.5 billion, which is 38.3% more than in the same period in 2021, which was then $9.7 billion. Moreover, the volume of Kazakhstani imports for seven months of 2022 from China is a record result for such a period: in 2022 Kazakhstani imports from China amounted to $5.5 billion, with an increase of 22.6% compared to the same period in 2021. Over the seven months of last year, imports amounted to $4.5 billion. The main growth in imports is observed in the commodity group “machinery, equipment, vehicles, devices and apparatuses” – by 19.4% (for the seven months of 2022 – $3.1 billion, for the seven months of 2021 – $2.6 billion).

    In general, the program for development of IT industry within the framework of BRI has been called the Digital Silk Road (DSR). The DSR is a government initiative where Chinese companies are key players. Chinese telecommunications giants such as Huawei and ZTE, as the largest telecommunications service providers and major 5G technology providers, are successfully achieving their goal of dominating the 5G market worldwide. Leading Chinese video surveillance companies such as Hikvision, Dahua and Huawei are among the main providers of surveillance services and technologies in developing countries, including Kazakhstan. According to a Fudan University report, it is noted that over the past two years, 201 Chinese companies in the digital field have completed 1,334 overseas investment and cooperation projects, 57% of which are related to DSR. In general, by developing next-generation telecommunications infrastructure, smart city technology and surveillance systems, data centers and storage infrastructure, and other high-tech tools, Beijing is seeking to increase its role in Internet telecommunications governance and cyberspace regulation.

    The rapid development of the IT sector in Kazakhstan, on the one hand, has a positive impact on the economy and makes the country more attractive for investment. On the other hand, the transfer of Chinese surveillance and censorship technologies is worrisome, and could further shrink civic space in Kazakhstan. The greatest concern is not only the import of Chinese technologies, but also the possible import of Chinese approaches to organizing the work of smart cities, which can now be called cities of surveillance and censorship. Smart cities built on Chinese surveillance technology promise increased security and convenience for residents, but at what cost?

    The examples of China itself are widely known. The most well-known measure of the Chinese government “to combat cybercrime” (in fact, for content restriction and total surveillance) is the so-called Golden Shield, or Dragon Firewall. It is a nationwide electronic barrier that filters and controls information flows in such a way that all Internet user data in China passes through a limited number of checkpoints (gateways), operated by a limited number of Internet providers. Since 2006, the entire Chinese segment of the Internet has come under the control of this state system.

    In Kazakhstan in the past few years, has been actively implemented the Smart City projects, within the framework of which CCTV cameras are installed on the streets of cities to ensure law and order and comply with traffic rules. For video surveillance systems implemented in Kazakhstan, Chinese products are mainly used.

    Since 2017, Sergek hardware-software complexes (which means “vigilant” in Kazakh) have been operating in the biggest cities of Kazakhstan, which are supplied by Korkem Telecom (a subsidiary of Open Technologies Group). These companies are Kazakh, but Korkem Telecom’s technical partner is Chinese Dahua Technology.

    Sergek is an intelligent video monitoring, analysis and forecasting system that includes:

    – A network of video recording modules that control key areas of the urban space – highways, squares, road junctions, house adjoining areas;

    – Image recording and recognition system;

    – Intellectual system of information processing and analysis.

    Sergek has computing power and special software that allows real-time processing of significant amounts of information. Hikvision, another Chinese manufacturer of CCTV cameras and security equipment, has been operating in Kazakhstan since 2015. Hikvision cameras in Kazakhstan monitor road safety as part of the Smart City projects, and are also used in the Unified Video Monitoring System of Almaty. This system should implement situational video analytics: recognize faces and license plates on cars.

    In September 2019, Reuters, citing unnamed intelligence sources and security experts, reported that hackers working for the Chinese government had hacked telecommunications networks in several countries, including Kazakhstan, to track down Uyghur tourists in Central and Southeast Asia. China seeks to monitor Kazakhstan because it is the historical homeland of many residents of China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; over the past few years, Chinese authorities have arrested more than one million people in Xinjiang.

    China has a lot more technical capabilities than it seems at first glance, and it’s not just about cameras, but also about Chinese-made mobile devices that are in high demand in Kazakhstan due to their low price, Kazakh cybersecurity experts say. Kazakhstani researchers consider the risks from the penetration of Chinese surveillance and censorship technologies to be very high, and point out that this aspect of the implementation of DSR initiatives occupies an undeservedly small place in public discussions on the topic of BRI in Kazakhstan.


    In January 2022, in Kazakhstan broke out protests, related to rising gas prices, which very quickly turned into political protests. A large number of citizens were detained – about 7,000 people, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs – who were detained based on data from street surveillance cameras. In response to an official request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs whether Face ID cameras and artificial intellect systems were used during the detention of protesters, the Ministry of Internal Affairs replied that such systems were not used. However, given the scale of the protests, and the large number of detained participants, this is hard to believe.

    Danil Bekturganov – Director, NGO “Civil Expertise”

    Public Perceptions of China in Tajikistan

    China’s acceptability in Tajikistan comes after Russia – the Tajik people and the Tajik government; why Russia is popularly accepted as a significant or dominant power – is clear; China comes after Russia. According to the Kenan Institute (based on a Central Asian Barometer survey), 54% of people strongly favor/support (in contrast, 73% strongly favor Russia and 40% strongly prefer the United States); 30% are somewhat favorable, and only 13% don’t know or refused to answer; 20% of people think that China is a reliable and friendly great power – it’s significant considering the number of percentages for Russia is 78% and for the US is 2%. Elizabeth Wood and Thomas Baker summarized the Central Asian Barometer Survey on Public Perception of China in Central Asia conducted from 2017-to 2021:  China’s public diplomacy wins the Tajiks’ admiration through culture, language, and civilization; the degree to which citizens and leaders view the PRC favorably could also be instrumental in advancing other economic, geopolitical, and security interests.

    Tajikistan presents high approval rates for the leadership of the PRC (63 percent on average). In contrast with the USA, it is less favorable (35 percent on average). Tajikistan is the case of China’s “extract” strategy, in which there are significant economic interests for the PRC, and the PRC has maintained high approval rates there.

    Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

    Government’s goal is to sell increased Sino-Georgian cooperation as a counterbalance to its total failure on the Western front.

    In July this year, Georgian experts and the political community were surprised when, during the visit of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili to China, the two sides issued a joint statement on the establishment of a Strategic Partnership. The document has been criticised by experts for its perceived imbalance between Chinese and Georgian interests and concerns.

    This month, Prime Minister Garibashvili announced visa-free travel for Chinese citizens and the government’s intention to increase the number of direct flights to China to “further facilitate tourism.” This was followed by statements from Georgian officials that they would welcome Chinese investment in the strategically important infrastructure project for Georgia, the Anaklia deep-sea port. Indeed, today the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Levan Davitashvili, revealed that the Sino-Singaporean consortium has been selected as one of the two finalists in the selection process for the Anaklia port private partnership.

    Against the backdrop of ambivalent relations with Georgia’s strategic partners – the EU and the US – these developments raise concerns and question marks. What does it all mean, and what are the implications for Georgia’s established foreign policy priorities?

    Armed with these questions, we turned to Tinatin (Tina) Khidasheli, chair of the Georgian think-tank Civic Idea, which studies Sino-Georgian relations. Tina Khidasheli is a former Georgian Defense Minister and former Member of Parliament. recently announced a visa-free regime for Chinese citizens “to boost trade, investment, and tourism” alongside the establishment of a “Strategic Partnership” with China. While this move has been met with both praise and criticism, what is your assessment? What potential benefits and risks do you see for Georgia in this decision, especially considering the country’s aspirations for NATO and EU integration?

    For a country like Georgia, which has a very flexible visa policy, the “boosting trade, investment and tourism” argument is pure speculation. The visa regime has never prevented Chinese investors from coming to Georgia, as the process is very easy, cheap and hassle-free. It is more of a political statement than a practical step.

    After issuing a statement on strategic cooperation, the Georgian government felt the need to act and, without looking at the actual consequences of the action, came up with this idea as a first step with a political flavor, almost similar to the announcement of the first Chinese-run World Trade Expo on 23-25 September. We will see many initiatives in the coming weeks leading up to the Silk Road Forum at the end of October.

    The bigger problem with all these decisions, including the establishment of a visa-free regime, is that even in dealing with a country like China, the Georgian government has no concrete medium- or long-term plan, development strategy or risk assessment documents. We do not see any planning for medium- or long-term goals and outcomes that the government wants to achieve, but a very concrete domestic agenda goal to sell increased Sino-Georgian cooperation as a counterbalance to the government’s total failure on the Western front, be it with the EU or the US. the commitment made by the government of Georgia in its agreement with China, particularly regarding adherence to the ‘one-China principle,’ support for initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Global Development Initiative (GDI), Global Security Initiative (GSI), and Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) and considering other European countries’ decisions to withdraw from initiatives like the BRI what is your perspective on the potential implications of such a commitment?

    Again, these are all political decisions so far, without any particular substance or understanding of what the actual results will be for Georgia. I do not expect these principles to have any immediate practical effect on the Sino-Georgian affair, nor do I expect any immediate reactions from the West. The fact that the Georgian government, without any consultation with the Parliament or the Commander-in-Chief (President of Georgia), took the liberty of joining the GSI, which was created and delivered as an anti-US and anti-NATO strategic statement, says a lot.

    The GSI recognizes, approves and promotes the idea of the UN as the one and only institution guaranteeing world peace and prosperity. It denies the importance of other institutions and recognizes the legitimate interests of countries in self-defense in cases and decisions that are absolutely outside the jurisdiction, territory or legitimacy of any particular country. To make the case easier, we need to remember simple facts. The GSI was launched and presented after Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Accordingly, it is seen as the PRC’s response to the invasion. It accepts the legitimacy of Russia’s claim that NATO’s enlargement threatens Russia and declares it a strategic concern in Russia’s case. It does not explicitly legitimize Russia’s aggression, but it declares these legitimate concerns to be grounds for serious consideration. Georgia has unilaterally recognized the GSI and pledged to abide by its principles, notwithstanding its clear confrontation with our most important long-term strategic partner in defense and security.

    It is difficult now to predict exactly what the consequences for Georgia will be, but it is fair to say that the language of the strategic declaration, as well as its release so close to a historic decision on EU candidate status, is a pure provocation by the government. It fits in perfectly with the rhetoric we have recently heard from the mayor of Tbilisi, Kaladze, about NATO. The term “strategic partnership” often implies the possibility of military cooperation and intelligence-sharing. How do you view the potential for such cooperation between Georgia and China, and what implications might this have for the region and Georgia’s Western alliances?

    So far, there is no visible sign of any planned military/defence cooperation. We have only had two attempts to bring the Chinese into the defense sector: the Motor Sich case and a promise of a military training exchange that never materialized, mainly due to the intervention of Covid.

    To some extent, as long as Georgia sticks to the NATO agenda (also for PR purposes), I do not really see the possibility of official Sino-Georgian military cooperation. China does not usually start by moving its military officers or personnel around. Another obstacle is Sino-Russian defense cooperation and joint military training, where again it would be absolutely suicidal for the Georgian government to participate.

    As for intelligence sharing, in a sense, we are already doing it by keeping Chinese Nuchtech on our borders. So, making it official in treaties will depend totally on the turn Georgia will make after the 2024 elections. has been suggested that China uses strategic partnerships with small states to exert influence and secure support for its global initiatives. What role do you see Georgia playing in the broader context of China’s Initiatives and its ambitions in the South Caucasus and Central Asia?

    It is absolutely clear that the main interests of the PRC lie in Central Asia and the resources of the Caspian Sea. Georgia, by virtue of its geographical and political position, is an integral part of the whole scheme. As I see it, the July 2023 statement on strategic partnership was not so much about the materialization of the huge amount of concrete plans as it was about locking in Georgia as a sphere of interest. I call it the PRC’s master plan to replace “Russki Mir” with Confucius World for the time when all the above principles and plans will be activated.

    It should also be mentioned that the statement on strategic partnership goes even deeper and provides that Georgia will coordinate its activities with the PRC at the level of an international organization. Therefore, we should not be surprised if one day Georgia will start voting with the Chinese voice instead of the EU or the US in the UN or other organizations. Civic IDEA closely monitors the ongoing developments in Georgia’s cooperation with China and continues to investigate potential risks and misconduct in various sectors, including infrastructure, economics, and education, could you elaborate on the specific concerns and irregularities that your organization has uncovered during its five years of research? Additionally, what recommendations or measures do you propose for Georgia to address these concerns, enhance transparency, and promote accountability in its relationship with China?

    This is a very big question, and you can find all the answers in our reports. Each report has a summary of problems demonstrating the magnitude of misconduct or risks to the country, including corruption risks. the evolving dynamic in which Russia and China appear to be united in challenging the Western liberal democratic world order, especially as evidenced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and their joint efforts to forge multilateral institutions, and given China’s role in financing Russia’s actions and blocking sanctions against Russia, what strategies or safeguards can Georgia implement to protect its interests and maintain its relations with both China and the West?

    We believe in cooperation, so there is nothing in our policy paper recommendations against Sino-Georgian cooperation. There’s always room to do more, and the Georgian government could have successfully worked on mutually beneficial treaties and agreements. The problem with the 31 July statement is that it is absolutely one-sided, and represents the whole spectrum of issues that the PRC is concerned about, but none of them reflect the interests of Georgia. So our recommendation is simple: at least work with the principles of reciprocity in mind when drafting these documents.

    But if we look at the bigger picture, it is absolutely clear that Georgia has a chance to become stronger and have more influence with the major regional players only if and when it is supported by the Western alliances and allies. Close cooperation with the EU and the Americans has always helped Georgia to get maximum results from all cooperation agreements with third countries, and this is no different in the case of the PRC. Obviously, we are slowly but surely losing the power and influence that we have steadily gained through our firm commitment to EU and NATO membership and the transformation of the country into a European-style liberal democracy.

    Georgia’s only competitive advantage in this volatile region is its firm European aspirations, its democratisation and its setting an example of democratic success for the region, and I do not mean just the post-Soviet space. This is what makes transit through Georgia attractive and an obvious choice from Russia or Iran. We seem to be losing this competitive advantage. And finally, how would you comment to the today’s announcement by the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Levan Davitashvili who revealed that one of the two finalists in the Anaklia Deep Sea Port private partnership selection competition is a Chinese-Singaporean consortium, without naming it though?

    The Sino-Singaporean consortium, or even the Swiss-Luxembourg consortium, does not tell us much because where the company is registered does not tell us much about it. The biggest problem at the moment is that the information is completely classified. There is no reason why the government should not publish a list of companies interested in the bid, or why it should talk to citizens in riddles, but unfortunately this has become a very common practice. In the meantime, it prevents us from doing due diligence, and until that happens, there should be public scrutiny.

    LInk: 👇


    Civic IDEA’s partner experts, Danila Bekturganov and Abbos Bobokhonov, implemented research on “Chinese growing technological impact in Central Asia”, overviewing the main activities of Chinese technology companies in the two largest countries of the Central Asian region – Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The authors considered the opportunities available for Chinese technology companies to access the personal and biometric data of users – citizens of Central Asian countries. Moreover, they studied the prospects for cooperation between Chinese technology companies and the authorities of the Central Asian countries and provided conclusions and main recommendations on the areas of advocacy activities both on the regional and international levels. 

    The material has been prepared with the support of a DTL (Doublethink Lab) grant – CITW fund.

    See the full Report below 👇

    The Controversial Company That Opened The Door For China’s Growing Influence in Georgia

    For more see the article: 👇

    Central Asia Regional Positioning on the Russia – Ukraine War

    Report 👇

    Devil is in the details – A discussion on China-Georgia Strategic Partnership

    On August 7, Civic IDEA organized an online meeting, “Devil is in the details – A discussion on China-Georgia Strategic Partnership”, where international experts participated and discussed the risks related to the strategic cooperation signed by Georgia with China on July 31.
    The event was moderated by the chairwoman of Civic IDEA, Tinatin Khidasheli and the speakers involved:
    Glenn Tiffert – Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Co-chair of Hoover’s project on China’s Global Sharp Power;
    Martin Hala – Founder and Director of;
    Laura Harth – Campaign Director at Safeguard Defenders;
    Mareike Ohlberg – Senior Fellow in the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund, Germany.

    As it is known from the strategic partnership document, Sino-Georgian cooperation will be strengthened and intensified in four dimensions. Those are

    • Political
    • Economic
    • People to people and cultural cooperation, and
    • International.

    Thus the discussion aimed at addressing the essence of strategic partnership, the potential for the materialization of the promises made, and the risks associated with it. The first logical question is: why does a small state like Georgia represent such a priority for China, and how does the strategic partnership with the PRC work in the future?

    Here is the summary and are some of the takeaways from the discussion:

    The basic idea of such strategic partnerships is to make the world a safe place for the Chinese Communist Party and the PRC to operate in general with less criticism on the international level by facilitating free export-import relations, establishing trade routes that benefit the PRC and ensuring the state’s security. Small countries in the UN system have the right to vote and have a prominent place. The strategic partnership with China makes the small states obliged to vote in favor of its needs, while in response to this, they become dependent on China’s goodwill in terms of certain economic benefits. China has been building the alternative, post-western international world order by offering

    • Belt and Road Initiative in 2013,
    • The Global Development Initiative in 2021,
    • The Global Security Initiative in 2022,
    • The Global Civilization Initiative in 2023.

    Ensuring PRC’s leverage on small states is precisely the main objective behind the GSI, the GDI, and the GCI that are signed within the strategic partnership. The PRC uses such partnerships to demonstrate to the world that various states are signing its “anti-hegemonic”, “multipolar”, “tolerant” initiative.

    At the initial stage of the strategic partnership, there is no concrete content behind it. Nonetheless, content is filled gradually once the small states adhere to their support for the PRC and its global policy direction. The current document does not commit Georgia to pursue any specific course of action. There exists certain freedom in principle for Georgians to decide their own fate. Nonetheless, the PRC will exert significant political pressure on Georgia, making it committed to certain principles that go against NATO membership or any other Western institution. With signing the agreement, Georgia concedes a lot, accepting all of the PRC’s main initiatives without any reciprocity from China.

    As for the country-specific interests, in Georgia’s case, deep sea ports (Anaklia and Poti Fiz), Georgia’s role in securing trade routes to Europe alternative to the ones crossing the Russian territory, contracts for Chinese companies operating in the infrastructure sector remain crucial to deepen the relations further and attract the Chinese investments which have not been materialized yet in a full-scale. Together with that, strategic partnerships usually cause economic entanglement, in the end resulting in economic coercion. In other words, increasing economic dependence on China is dangerous due to the non-existence of legal mechanisms to stop the pressure from Beijing and its preferences.

    The PRC and Russia both claim to crave peace and stress the multipolarity, while they crave the lack of accountability and enforcement against the Authoritative powers for them to secure themselves from being accused of human rights violations, achieve corruption deals easily etc. Usually, any action that weakens Russia and its interests does not benefit the PRC either, as, despite all differences in interests, both authoritarian powers are united against the West and especially the liberal democratic world order. It is also visible when it comes to the war in Ukraine, where the PRC maintains “neutrality” portrayed in disinformation campaigns, military and economic support, and benefiting Russian interests.

    Moreover, the Sino-Georgian strategic partnership is directed towards neutralizing Georgia’s potential to join NATO and the EU and become the sole South Caucasian member of these alliances. Georgia sits in the middle both geographically (playing a significant role in the middle corridor initiative) and geopolitically (aspiring to join the Western alliances, the EU and NATO). While the balance of power between Russia and China is shifting nowadays due to weakened Russia amid the Western sanctions and the war in Ukraine, the PRC might pursue more assertive policies in South Caucasus and Central Asia. Therefore, the PRC will try to break Georgia away from the Western trajectory and bring it closer to its own orbit.

    In addition to that, the Global Security Initiative (GSI) requires special attention due to its unspoken content, including dubious and controversial principles such as “Indivisible Security”.  This notion originated from the Soviet Union and integrates the idea that violation of the state’s national sovereignty by another state can be justified once the other’s (violator’s) strategic interests are put in jeopardy. Consequently, the “indivisible Security” legitimated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    The efforts made by Georgia and China very much resemble the occurrences in Central and Eastern Europe, such as the 16+1 initiative 10 years ago. Back then, many European states were craving for boosted political and economic partnership with the PRC, signing agreements and accepting offerings from Beijing while unaware of what they were signing for. Besides, the agreements were usually signed unexpectedly, without any pre-conditions, lacking democratic debate and transparency. Unsurprisingly, such agreements have either never been realized or caused negative results.
    The geopolitical situation is changing very quickly, especially with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and playing both East and West scenarios is becoming impossible. Central and Eastern European leaderships have acknowledged this; however, this occasion did not serve as a lessons-learned approach for Georgia.

    Another worthy example is Italy, which has been the liaison with the BRI since 2019. The agreement with both states was signed without any democratic debate due to the success of Chinese people-to-people diplomacy. All of this has not benefited Italy, but it undermined it’s standing as a trusted partner in G7, the EU, and NATO. Therefore, it is no surprise that due to these disadvantages, Italy is planning to leave the BRI. Even though there exists a will to leave, the signed document does not provide any clearance regarding how to do it. What is evident by now is that Italy will have to pay the price for exiting the BRI.

    Is the Georgian government unaware of those risks? Or do they have their own motives despite the risks?

    Weak institutionalized electoral democracies have to deliver public goods to their people. The PRC arrives with loans to subsidize infrastructure, bringing their state-owned enterprises, building ports, highways, bridges, and developing mines without any immediate costs to the nation. Governments look at Chinese investments positively as they do not have to pay the debt because it is transferred to their successor authorities. The government can win votes in elections with this strategy. Secondly, PRC investments provide tremendous opportunities for kickbacks and local corruption, resulting in elite capture. It can be very attractive for local officials who crave to enrich themselves and prioritize their personal interests over the state’s interests.

    Interview whith the former Defence Minister of Georgia – Tinatin Khidasheli

    The European country of Georgia has announced an upgrade in bilateral ties with China, to what both are calling a “strategic partnership.” It is part of a foreign policy shift, that has seen Tbilisi friendlier to authoritarian states, including Russia.

    In the deal with China, Georgia commits to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Beijing promises Tbilisi preferential lending from Chinese banks, for possible projects including a new international airport, a deep sea port, and several hydroelectric power stations.

    Civic IDEA’s report #2 “PRC’s Peace Game – The War in Ukraine”

    For more information, please see the full report below 👇

    Note to the Georgia – China Strategic Partnership

    Following the Georgian PM Gharibashvili’s visit to the PRC and meeting with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping and PM Li Qiang, Sino-Georgian relations have been upgraded to a strategic partnership prioritizing the deepening of bilateral relations in foreign affairs. The document, released on July 31, consists of four dimensions where cooperation will be strengthened and intensified. Those are

    • Political
    • Economic
    • People to people and cultural cooperation, and
    • International.

    The document starts with a political domain and speaks about respect for all states’ sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. While the statement sounds general, the Chinese emphasized their national interests, which differs from Georgia. From a general statement, we read that “Georgia strongly supports One China Policy” without a reciprocal sentence over a similar commitment from the Chinese

    Other than already mentioned, under the political domain

    • The parties express their readiness to exchange experience in the field of governance to ensure common development and prosperity.
    • The parties point out the need to expand connections between central and local government bodies, as well as political groups and parties, to share experiences and strengthen relations in different directions.
    • Two sides acknowledge the importance of strengthening relations and cooperation between the legislative bodies in many directions and at different levels, as well as the importance of communication and consultation in relevant regional and international organizations.

    Priorities under the economic domain contain another set of concerns. In particular, Georgia got a promise of preferential lending from Chinese banks for the implementation of social and infrastructure projects, as well as more cooperation “in the areas of transportation, communications, infrastructure modernization, development and strengthening of the Middle Corridor, digital technologies, manufacturing, upgrading and expansion of railway networks, agriculture and food safety, water resources, environment protection, fighting desertification, water desalination, conformity assessment, usage of Georgia’s transit infrastructure for smooth export of Chinese products to Western markets, the exchange of know-how and technology as well as human resource training.”

    The agreement continues two of the following articles:

    • The parties will help universities to implement practical cooperation similar to joint training programs; Universities will be encouraged to make full use of high-quality digital educational resources and consider them in collaborative online and offline formats. China and Georgia will promote the mutual exchange of students and joint development using government scholarship instruments and other means.
    • The parties attach importance to exchange and cooperation programs for language learning, encourage schools of both countries to study Chinese and Georgian languages, and implement and retrain exchange programs for language teachers; They will also further support the development of Confucius Institutes (classrooms).

    Finally, the last part of the agreement deals with the international domain. In a multifaceted statement over mutually beneficial cooperation under the UN, one can quickly identify the main trajectory of Chinese diplomacy. Article 4.1. reads as follows:

    “strengthen coordination and collaboration in regional and international affairs, jointly uphold true multilateralism, firmly uphold the UN-centered international system, the international order based on international law, and the basic norms governing international relations underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and promote the establishment of a new type of international relations.”

    Under the international domain chapter of the agreement, the government of Georgia committed itself to adhere to the

    • one-China principle,
    • supports the BRI,
    • Global Development Initiative (GDI),
    • Global Security Initiative (GSI), and
    • the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI).

    Such a blank commitment from a country that has constitutionally established foreign policy priorities, joining NATO and EU, is extremally irresponsible and largely confusing.

    As for the BRI, it was exactly today, August 1st, 2023, that yet another European country confirmed to drop out from membership. “Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni‘s government confirmed for the first time this week that it’s seeking a way out of its four-year-old membership of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The confirmation comes in the form of a newspaper interview with Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, shortly after Meloni’s meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in the White House.” reports politico from Brussels. In the same article, Georgia’s strategic decision on allying with China is called a “blow to the EU”.  This is exactly how we see the move. Three short months ahead of EU Commission review of Georgia’s performance towards 12 point reform plan for gaining EU Candidate status PM Garibashvili’s statements on the exchange of governance practices with authoritarian China and building strong cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party after his ruling Georgian Dream party’s split from European Socialists is rather blunt and straight forward move that expressed in the words of one of his admirer philosopher “sends a clear message to Europe. If you are not ready to accept us as we are, there is always China”.

    It is also important to note that the signing of the strategic partnership with China and reaffirming commitment to GSI is taking place against the backdrop of the fact that PM Gharibashvili did not attend the NATO Vilnius summit (2 weeks prior to his one-week-long voyage to the PRC). It was preceded by the appalling statement at the 2023 Globsec forum in Bratislava regarding Russia’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion in Ukraine being “partly” motivated by Ukraine’s NATO aspirations. In his statement, he was basically talking in line with the GSI’s 4th commitment to taking “legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously”, meaning NATO’s open door policy to be the legitimate security concern of Russia to be respected and understood.

    A strategic partnership with Communist China, amid the ambiguous and harmful policies pursued by the Georgian government regarding NATO and the West in general, is contrary to the country’s strategic and foreign policy goals set by the Constitution and threatens national security.

    Civic IDEA, as the only organization in Georgia investigating Chinese influence operations in the region, will actively observe the development of events. Of course, diversification of foreign partners remains a priority for the country; however, at the same time, we are aware of the risks and misconduct related to Georgia’s cooperation with China in both infrastructure, economic and educational sectors, which we have been widely investigating for already five years. PM Gharibashvili’s personal sentiments towards the PRC, close ties with the Chinese elite, and work experience in a scandalous Chinese company CEFC were disclosed by us over the years, along with dozens of other mishandlings and abuse in Georgia-PRC relations, and we will continue monitoring, reporting and building resilience.

    Statement on the Arrest of Professor Gubad Ibadoghlu

    Civic IDEA responds to the arrest of our friend and colleague, Mr. Gubad Ibadoghlu, which took place on July 23 in Baku, Azerbaijan. He is allegedly being held in the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (MDCOC) in Baku, a department infamous for its record of mistreatment and torture of political prisoners.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Ibadoghlu is not the first prisoner in Baku whose arrest and charges raise serious questions. The circumstances of his treatment, as reported by various credible sources, are even more worrisome, as Mr.Ibadoghlu already has a disturbing health condition, and depriving medical care will worsen it even more. It is in complete violation of basic human rights standards.  

    We strongly condemn the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Ibadoghlu based on groundless accusations and call on the Azerbaijani authorities to show compassion and provide him with instant medical treatment as needed. We also join the calls of international human rights organizations and activists in demanding his immediate release and respect for the rights and freedoms of the civil society members in the country.