January 29, 2019
China’s Belt and Road Initiative has attracted many and Georgia could be one of them. Georgia has the ability to develop its Black Sea ports, internal railway, and highway networks that can actively engage China in the South Caucasian route for commercial purposes.
The ancient Silk Road served as an ancient trade route from eastern China to various major markets like the Roman empire, Byzantine empire, Sasanian Iran, etc. The most crucial aspect of all these trade routes was their adaptability to absorb changes taking place in ancient to modern era.
Georgia appears on those ancient trade routes only as a result of political disturbances like an invasion, economic problems, etc in the region. The Silk road passes through Georgia, Armenia, and Iran. In the 19th century, Russians gave access to European products to reach Iran through Georgian transit route. It is well known that in the Soviet era, there were no trade routes that ran through Georgia as the place did not have borders.
After a long time, Georgia has got the chance to become a transit corridor for trade and energy from the Caspian area in Central Asia and also in Western China. The renewal of Georgian trade routes is linked to China’s economic and military rise. Similar to other rising powers, China has strategic goals that clash with those of the U.S. China want to preserve its oil and gas resources, mostly concentrated around the Malacca Strait.
The trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is directed towards reconnecting the Asia-Pacific with Europe through Russia, the Middle East, and Central Asia. There are some major corridors proposed by China. These are China to Europe through the New Eurasian Land Bridge; China-Mongolia-Russian Corridor; Central and West Asian countries; China-Indochina Peninsula Corridor linking China with the South Pacific Ocean through the South China Sea; China-Pakistan trade corridor and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar trade route. The listed routes, do not mention Georgia and the South Caucasus but the BRI project is not static, it has undergone several changes. Beijing will always keep adding new routes to face new opportunities and adjust through difficult geographical terrain.
Thus, Chinese BRI approach is inclined towards transcontinental trade routes that were present in ancient and medieval periods. Georgia has all those capabilities that can help Chinese expansionist policy. Georgia has the ability to develop its Black Sea ports, internal railway, and highway networks that can actively engage China in the South Caucasian route for commercial purposes. For sure, China will also keep track of Russia before making any move in the region. The opening up of the Georgian market to Eurasia can help in promoting development activities in the region.