China's counterweight to Moscow: Georgia builds new alliances
A research fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) Franziska Smolnik published an article about the Georgian-Chinese relations. "The importance and presence of China is growing in Georgia. The One Belt, One Road initiative, Beijing's vision for the New Silk Road were enthusiastically supported here - unlike in some Western European capitals, where they are cool and even skeptical about the project. The Tbilisi government is trying to turn the country into an important component of the southern Eurasian corridor," the article says.
"In order to benefit from trade flows between China and Europe in the future, Georgia has already implemented a set of measures. For example, it became the first country in the Eurasian area to sign a free trade agreement with China. Major infrastructure projects are expected to facilitate transit. Such projects as Tbilisi Belt & Road Forum are used to promote Georgia as a country. But whether the Silk Road will become a win-win project for Georgia remains to be seen," Smolnik notes.
According to the SWP analyst, the fact that Georgia was one of the first countries to receive a loan from the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (Georgia is one of its founders) on the initiative of China in 2017, as well as the conclusion of the free trade agreement, demonstrates the importance that China attaches to this country.
The fact that Georgia is so determined in the context of One Belt, One Road, also speaks about the independence of its foreign policy, Smolnik believes. "It is still Western-oriented, but at the same time it is increasingly opening up for the East. The question of how big Georgia's room for manoeuvre will be - both economically and politically - in view of a strong asymmetry between its own and the Chinese economies, is open. Until now, Georgia's government has emphasized the economic importance of the New Silk Road and China's presence in the region, associated with it. Geopolitical considerations of Georgia, first of all, are related to Russia. Moreover, the strategy is to either improve its position in the relations with its northern neighbor due to the increase of China's economic interests in Georgia, or present the southern route of Eurasia as an alternative to the northern lines, dominant in Moscow," the political scientist writes.
It is noteworthy that a researcher at the leading German think tank pays attention to a possible conflict of interests between the West and China, as well as its potential influence on Georgia's position. "Tbilisi emphasizes that its relations with the West and with China complement each other. On the other hand, there is widespread doubt in many Western European capitals that the One Belt, One Road initiative is equally beneficial for all parties, as China claims. This initiative is increasingly viewed as Beijing's geo-strategic project. For Georgia this means that only practice will indicate whether the two foreign policy landmarks that it is trying to pursue are compatible."