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Georgia Bets on China for Black Sea Port, Jeopardizing Ties to the West

The Georgian government announced that a Chinese consortium will build a strategic port on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, a move that could strain Georgia’s relations with the West. The decision comes just after Georgia’s parliament attempted to pass a controversial “foreign agents” law.

The Chinese consortium that will build the port includes Chinese state-owned enterprises with a history of international controversies, ranging from fraud allegations in the Philippines to bribery in Bangladesh. Two of the companies in the consortium have even been banned from participating in World Bank-funded construction projects. This choice by the Georgian government could further escalate tensions between Georgia and the West.

The port project in Anaklia, a small Black Sea resort town, is seen as a critical part of the “Middle Corridor,” a global trade network between Europe and Asia. Critics worry that giving China control over this key port would allow them to dominate a crucial trade route.

The main company in the Chinese port-building consortium is the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), a key player in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Despite its global presence, CCCC faces scrutiny for its overseas practices. These include fraud scandals in the Philippines and contract termination controversies in Tanzania.

The Georgian port deal marks the country’s second attempt to build a deep-sea port in Anaklia; a previous attempt led by Georgia’s TBC Bank and the U.S. firm Conti International was canceled in 2020 amid political controversies.

Some see the timing of the Georgian government’s decision regarding port construction as a message about Georgia’s geopolitical leanings. The move comes at a time when Georgia’s relationship with the West is already strained due to the Georgian “foreign agents” law. According to Wikipedia, the foreign agents law “would require non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to register as foreign agents or ‘organizations carrying the interests of a foreign power’ and disclose the sources of their income if the funds they receive from abroad amount to more than 20% of their total revenue.”


Voice of America, June 4, 2024

Wikipedia, Retrieved Jun 6, 2024