The New Silk Road now runs through Georgia

Ships sit in the Port of Batumi in Georgia. China views the country as a vital trade link for exports. ( Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Khuroshvili llya )

The misconception about the New Silk Road is that China is banking on nostalgia of old trade routes based on the old empire’s best-selling export products. Apparently, according to a report by Deutsch Welle, the planned initiative was born out of “geostrategic interests.” This was confirmed once the former Soviet territory of Georgia was included in the planned Silk Road economic belt.

The initiative, also known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR), was demonstrated in a map that drew the planned economic belt as well as the planned maritime road and harbors involved in the project. Roads that go as far as Russia and Belarus led to the project crossing through Central Asia including the aforementioned Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey in the form of proposed roads and railways.

China is willing to invest funds to get the New Silk Road built in the soonest time possible. This was confirmed in China Premier Li Kequiang’s meeting with 16 other government officials from Central and Southeast Europe. With investments reported to be as much $3 billion for the following years, other countries took the bait and participated willingly to OBOR.

Most of the countries that took the carrot were countries from the Balkans that felt neglected by the European Union (EU). Investments are promised in the form of infrastructure, gains that are not felt by said countries in their connection to the EU. It may not be an alternative yet to the EU, but investments that would help their respective economies are seen to boost their economic value as states.

Georgia “signed an association agreement with the European Union” back in June 2014 and it signed a free trade agreement with China in May 2017. Beijing is interested in Georgia as a potential hub for China’s export products. The World Bank even commended Georgia’s attractive investment climate due to “little bureaucracy, functioning institutions, low levels of corruption, and steady growth.”

The Hualing Group’s construction projects in the capital of Tbilisi are attributed to the serious interests that Beijing has in Georgia. The group is now in the middle of building a special economic zone right in the suburb of Tbilisi itself. Wang Shengxin, the Hualing Group’s General Director, even provided details of the project in an interview with Deustche Welle.

The Chinese government is also reported to be investing in Georgia’s port of Poti by the Black Sea coast to boost strategic trade networks by the sea. The port is expected to receive bigger ships and is expanding its deep-sea port.

In the Chinese government’s International Fair of Investment and Trade in Xiamen, Georgia is one of the few countries invited to present its viable trade environment. This gave the impression that Georgia has become one of the preferred trade partners to the Middle Kingdom.

While China has already included Russia’s capital, Moscow in the OBOR, Georgia’s investment climate proved to be too attractive, even with its sometimes hostile relationship that Russia.

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