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.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has reported on Sino-Georgia partnership in its article “The Controversial Company That Opened The Door For China’s Growing Influence in Georgia”. The article overviews Sino-Georgia’s business deals, with a particular focus on the notorious Chinese company CEFC, where Georgia’s current PM, Irakli Gharibashvili, served as an advisor and which owns 75% of Poti FIZ. “Civic IDEA was the first to call attention to CEFC’s work in Georgia and Chinese investments in the country. According to the NGO’s research, every infrastructure project in Georgia worth more than $100 million since Garibashvili returned as prime minister in 2021 has involved Chinese firms.“
The report presents the update of Civic IDEA’s last year’s take on “Can Russia find more friends and support in the war against Ukraine? – position and reactions of Central Asian Countries” (See https://civicidea.ge/en/3712-2/new/), overviewing the range of tactical and strategic narratives expressed by Central Asian states during the initial four months of the Russia-Ukraine war. The updated version aims to explore the shifts and changes in the positioning of the Central Asian countries on Russian aggression against Ukraine, as well as the great East-West power competition and the leverage of the region’s two authoritarian neighbors, Russia and China in various domains such as politics, international platforms, economics, military cooperation, and disinformation campaigns.
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 Synopsis.cz; 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
People to people and cultural cooperation, and
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.
The report represents the update of Civic IDEA’s last year’s take on “PRC’s two-fold game in the Russian-Ukrainian war” (See:https://civicidea.ge/en/prcs-twofold-game-in-the-russian-ukrainian-war/new/), which overviewed the set of tactical and strategic narratives from Beijing related to the first four months of the Russia-Ukraine war. It explores the dynamics of the relationship between Beijing and Moscow in various domains, including politics, international platforms, economics, military cooperation, and disinformation campaigns. Despite occasional gestures towards peace, China’s actions and statements indicate a difficult fixture in which it balances its relationships with both Russia and the West. Hence, our research aims to raise questions about China’s true intentions and complex game in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
For more information, please see the full report below ?
Within the framework of the project “Georgia as a Multi-ethnic and Multi-faceted Country”, we present the second consecutive monitoring report on the Georgian languageand literature textbooks. When examining Georgian language and literature textbooks, our main task was to evaluate:
To what extent and how frequently are representatives of national or religious minorities living/active in Georgia found in literature textbooks;
To what extent do the creators of school textbooks realize that for a diverse Georgia, a Georgian does not exclusively refer to “Georgian Orthodox man” and the Georgian literature encompasses all those authors and figures who have contributed to making literature texts in our country;
To what extent the idea is implemented that the literary heritage of Georgia means everything created by writers living in Georgia, regardless of the language of the original text – considered and accommodated.
The main aim of the project is to promote the formation of the population of Georgia (regardless of people’s ethnic and religious backgrounds) into a unified civic nation. We believe this task is difficult to accomplish without integrating relevant views and philosophies into school education. Therefore, our project also serves to fundamentally analyze problems and find ways to eliminate them. To this end, we consider a thorough audit of school textbooks at the initial stage to be the most important task in order to find out to what extent school education helps people of different ethnicities and nations living in Georgia to feel a part of history, development, and statehood of Georgia.
Civic IDEA’s report “China’s “Wolf Warrior” Policy in the Media – the Case of Georgia”
Civic IDEA is happy to share with you a new report on the CCP’s influence activities in the Georgian media. The objective of the research is to analyze the degree of Chinese influence on the Georgian media, both traditional and so-called new media, in the context of the strategy of the Chinese Communist Party through both content and systemic analysis. The media report portrays how China is covered in the Georgian media and how the strategic mission of the Chinese Communist Party is fulfilled – with propaganda and tactical approaches on the “cultural front” to achieve the formation of public opinion in the form desired by the Chinese Communist Party and later, to use it for leverage over various stakeholders or establish control. At the same time, the systematic media analysis aimed to examine the share of the People’s Republic of China and its affiliated business actors in both media ownership and the advertising market.
The report was created in cooperation with the Journalism Resource Center.
For more information, you can download the report here ?
We are happy to share with you a discussion paper written by our chairwoman Tinatin Khidasheli about the expectations for the 2024 parliamentary elections. She argues that based on election data for the last 10 years, the “Georgian Dream” party (the ruling party in Georgia) as a single party has no chance of winning the proportional vote. This article contains facts and unmistakable data proving that, even by Georgian “normal” standards, winning an election and independently forming a government by the Georgian dream is impossible. She also provides some scenarios for the developments before the elections.
This is the first article in the series of discussion papers Civic IDEA will publish before the 2024 parliamentary vote.
During the past five years of intensive work revealing the PRC’s soft and hard power strategies jeopardizing Georgia’s national security, Civic IDEA has already published two reports covering China’s influence on Georgia’s academic, media and CSO sectors before, during, and after the emergence of the covid-19 pandemic. Today, we suggest another monitoring report from the Chinese cooperation and activities in Georgian Academia, though not related directly to the universities, but to the National Academy of Sciences of Georgia.
Through personal correspondence and public information available on their official website, Civic IDEA has discovered several memorandums and cooperation agreements the National Academy of Sciences has signed with both state and private Chinese entities, as well as numerous events and activities following the advanced relations with China. We came across several interesting connections that have already been established between local chapters of the Academy of Science, as well as individual scientists under the auspices of the Academy and Chinese universities, which gives us the idea that the increased research and academic cooperation will only boost and the partnership will gain even more attachment in the future.