The People’s Republic of China and Georgia have entered into a strategic partnership following a multi-day visit by Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang.
During the meeting held in the city of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, the strategic partnership was agreed up upon based on four principles. Additionally, Garibashvili reiterated his support for Xi’s “One China” policy.
“I would like to emphasize that Georgia strongly supports the One China principle. We have emphasized this position many times and will continue to do so in the future,” The Georgian Prime Minister stated during his visit.
The China-Georgia strategic partnership consists of four components; political, economic and cultural fields, strengthen cooperation in international affairs, deepen bilateral relations and jointly ensure regional and global peace, stability and development.
In the political section of the full text of the agreement, it states that “Georgia firmly supports the principle of one China.” The agreement also solidifies cooperation between high-level political bodies as well as local government entities, aimed at building ”
strategic mutual trust.”
The two also agree to to further economic cooperation in the areas of “transport, communications, infrastructure modernization, development and strengthening of the Middle Corridor, digital technologies, manufacturing, upgrading and development of railway networks, agriculture and food safety, water resources, environmental protection, combating desertification, water demineralization, compliance assessment, In order to use the transit infrastructure of Georgia for the unhindered export of Chinese products to the Western consumer markets, to share technological achievements and know-how, and to retrain personnel resources.”
The statement also affirms that both parties will deepen their relationship in the existing Free Trade Agreement and the China-Georgia Economic and Trade Cooperation Commission. Additionally, the agreement notes that the two will promote “open, green and clean cooperation to realize the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative and ensure sustainable development.”
In the international dimension, the agreement states that the two will “strengthen coordination and cooperation in regional and international affairs” and provide “joint support for true multilateralism”. Of interesting note is a section that maintains the two parties support for “common values of humanity” that include “peace, development, cooperation, justice, democracy and freedom; respect the independent choice of all peoples in determining the path of development appropriate to their national capacities and contribute to the creation of a society with a common future for mankind.”
The agreement concludes with an interesting point, reading “Georgia supports the global civilization initiative proposed by China. The parties will actively cooperate to implement the mentioned initiative.”
Georgia has long been a part of the ancient Silk Road, connecting China’s eastern empires with the markets of Europe and the Mediterranean. In the modern era, Georgia-China relations go back to the former’s first claims of independence in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union, something Gharibashvili noted in his statements. “China was one of the first to recognize Georgia’s independence in 1992, when we regained independence,” he said.
Georgia has been a significant part of China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative since its inception in 2013. Each year, Beijing has consistently allocated millions of dollars towards Foreign Direct Investment in Georgia, with $108.5 million being delivered in 2022.
Aside from the state investments, Chinese corporations have expanded their presence in the South Caucasian country. Hualing Group has involved itself in immense trade and hospitality projects, constructing a Free Industrial Zone in Georgia’s second largest city of Kutaisi and a sprawling series of residential, commercial, and hotel complexes on the eastern edge of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.
The Bigger Picture;
The move by Tbilisi to engage further with Beijing has already drawn criticism from The United States, one of the latter’s largest rivals and a immense financial backer of the former.
“We have nothing against the investment or involvement of any other country, including China,” the US said in a statement via the State Department. “Our concern is to ensure that these activities are carried out transparently and in accordance with the rule of law, with sustainable financing and respect for the autonomy of aid recipients, so that there are no political reservations.”
“The People’s Republic of China often makes promises in return for diplomatic recognition, which ultimately remain unfulfilled. We will carefully continue to monitor the next steps,” they added.
Additionally, Member of the European Parliament and supporter of Georgian integration with the European Union Viola von Cramon took to Twitter to further criticize the Georgian government, who she has said is warming up to Russia more since the invasion of Ukraine.
While everyone else tries to become more economically independent from ??
?? again takes another turn.
— Viola von Cramon ???? (@ViolavonCramon) July 31, 2023
“Helping Russia avoid sanctions, deepening economic ties with China – all this looks like the right move for Europe,” she posted ironically, calling into question the allegiance of Tbilisi and its stated ambition to become members of the EU and NATO.
While China has invested a significant amount of resources into Georgia, the country has yet to see the benefits fully materialize. Beijing’s projects have been long in the making and occasionally fraught with labor and legal issues. Protests and strikes by Georgia workers claiming employment rights abuses have been recurring for the Chinese state-run companies constructing many of the nation’s infrastructure projects.
Vitali Giorgadze, chairman of the Georgian Railway Trade Union, said in 2020 during the legal proceedings when 4 workers were injured during a tunneling project that the Chinese companies “treat them like slaves. A person does not know when to sleep. Every company has this kind of housing unit. It’s illegal.”