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.