China and Georgia Upgrade Ties to Strategic Partnership

China and Georgia announced an upgrade of bilateral ties to a strategic partnership in a statement on Monday, which also mentions cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Global Initiatives.

The Lede: China and Georgia announced an upgrade of bilateral ties to a strategic partnership in a statement on Monday, which also mentions cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Global Initiatives.

What We Know:

  • The announcement was made in a joint statement from the two countries after Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 31st FISU World University Games in Chengdu and with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Beijing. Garibashvili also met with the head of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank Jin Liqun and with the top management of Huawei.
  • The joint statement lays out Georgia’s commitment to BRI with the two countries signing a bilateral cooperation plan to promote sustainable development. China pledged efforts to strengthen the ‘Middle Corridor,’ a connectivity concept through Eurasia that would bypass Russia, and Georgia’s transit infrastructure for exporting Chinese goods to Western markets. China will also consider the provisions of preferential loans for Georgia’s infrastructure projects.
  • In addition to the BRI, Li emphasized the China-Georgia Free Trade Agreement and the desire to strengthen cooperation in cross-border e-commerce, digital economy, green energy, and cultural exchanges. He also said that China is ready to work with Georgia to implement the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative.

The Background: Georgia has been part of the BRI since it began in 2013. Beijing has consistently allocated millions of dollars towards foreign direct investment in Georgia with $108.5 million being delivered in 2022. Chinese corporations have expanded their presence in the country in recent years. China’s Hualing Group has been involved in trade and hospitality projects, constructed a Free Industrial Zone in the city of Kutaisi, and a series of residential, commercial, and hotel complexes on the eastern edge of the capital Tbilisi. Labor and legal issues have emerged throughout Chinese projects in Georgia with protests and strikes by Georgian workers against state-run companies running infrastructure projects. There has been speculation that Georgia may invite China to invest in the recently revived Anaklia deep sea port.

Likely Outcomes:

  • China and Georgia have mutual interests in taking advantage of Russia’s loss of favor as an overland transit option in international shipping. Garibashvili departed for Kazakhstan after his visit to China where he will likely reaffirm the Middle Corridor roles of the two countries. This may represent an important route through Eurasia in the future as cross-border commerce makes the necessary geographic pivots.
  • Georgia’s relations with the West may actually become more accommodative as the U.S. and EU move to shore up their ties with their key partner in the South Caucasus. To a certain extent, Tbilisi may even use offers from China as leverage to exact better deals from the West. Moving forward, Georgia may benefit from offers of cooperation and relationships from both sides of the global superpower competition. Military and security cooperation between Georgia and the U.S. will likely remain in place for the foreseeable future.


“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.” - Irakli Garibashvili, prime minister of Georgia

"It looked like it was an important visit for Georgia and it's Georgia's choice, who its partners are going to be. The United States will remain a strong supporter of Georgia as we have for the past 30 years." - Kelly Degnan, U.S. Ambassador to Georgia

“We have nothing against the investment or involvement of any other country, including China. 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.” - statement from the U.S. Department of State

"We are a country that has free trade agreements with both China and the EU at the same time. We should be able to use this potential to the fullest." - Beka Davituliani, Georgian Dream party member of parliament

"The talk is not about partnership and cooperation, the talk is about strategic partnership, which in turn means, if China is willing, military cooperation and intelligence-sharing." - Tina Khidasheli, former Georgian defense minister

Good Reads:

Full text: Joint Statement of the People's Republic of China and Georgia on Establishing a Strategic Partnership (Xinhua)

"Strategic partnership" between Georgia and China puzzles critics (Eurasianet)

China And Georgia Enter Into New Strategic Partnership (Atlas News)

China, Georgia sign documents on BRI cooperation (CGTN)

Giorgia wants a way out. Georgia wants in (Politico)