On April 11, “Hoover Institution On War, Revolution And Peace”, together with “Freemen Spogli Institute”, hosted a Roundtable at Stanford University, California, US, where the Civic IDEA team discussed the relevant topics related to the PRC’s influence strategies in Georgia:
“PRC as an alternative to Russia in Georgia – Leverage on Investments and Academia”
China’s global influence has been increasing over the past few decades, driven by its rapidly growing economy, expanding diplomatic and cultural outreach, and ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Georgia is among those countries that see the PRC as an alternative to Russia, especially amid the war in Ukraine. It has been actively engaged in BRI, signed FTA with China and considers the further expansion of its role as a transit hub in the Middle Corridor initiative, which supposedly will attract more Chinese money to the country. Although Georgia is not yet the victim of PRC’s “debt trap diplomacy”, almost all the state’s critical infrastructure projects are led by notorious and internationally blacklisted companies, winning the state’s procurement bids. Thus, no ground is left for Western companies to firmly establish themselves in Georgia’s economic sector and attract further Western investments. This occasion limits the diversification of financial partners and puts the PRC state-operated and dubious companies in a priority position, hence making Georgia less attractive to the European market. The domination of Chinese companies within the BRI in Georgia’s infrastructure market has caused indignation among some EU member states’ ambassadors in Georgia. We remember Polish Ambassador in Georgia complaining about Georgia prioritizing Chinese companies over European ones. But in the end, everybody from the government again turns a blind eye to European criticism and stays ignorant about the Chinese firms continuously winning state procurements.
PRC has also been actively promoting cultural and educational exchanges between the two countries, establishing multiple Confucius institutes and classrooms in almost every university and higher education institution in Georgia, strengthening the role of the Georgia-China Friendship Association, providing generous scholarships to Georgian students, actively encouraging exchanges and funding in the fields of research and science and promoting dual partnerships between academic institutions. Within the framework of these academic exchanges, several shady characteristics have been identified, threatening Georgia’s national security in a broader context. Firstly, some of the Chinese universities that are involved in various international and dual partnerships with their Georgian counterparts are suspected of carrying very high, high and medium security risks due to their involvement with the PLA, cyber espionage, military research activities and engagement with other PRC’s defense entities. Secondly, the National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement (legal entity of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia) has no control over the study program and legal status of the Confucius Institutes mistrusted and shut by the Western societies. Thirdly, Georgian alumni with Chinese university degrees usually promote the PRC endeavors and vision of the world locally affecting the mindset and perception of Georgian society largely. At last, the National Academy of Sciences is blindly exchanging information and staff with Chinese entities on the basis of contracts that are regulated by the laws of the PRC and may be easily exploited by the Chinese authorities.