Last year, on the 28th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties, the Chinese side organized the transfer of anti-epidemic materials to Azerbaijan. Despite China badly needing such funds at the time, it still helped Azerbaijan and once again demonstrated the close friendship and mutual trust with Baku.
One year on, China is sticking to its commitment to cooperate in the battle against the pandemic.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev emphasized at a recent press conference that China was the only country to fulfill its partnership obligations by supplying his country with vaccines, when others failed to do so. In turn, Azerbaijan also provided considerable assistance to the Chinese side during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the diplomatic aspect of bilateral relations. It’s also worth talking about economic relations that are expanding between our countries. With the launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and the expansion of the implementation of the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China and Azerbaijan have become closer and need each other now more than ever.
No one will deny that China is a global economic giant, a power that, as experts predict, will eventually become an engine of the world economy. In principle, signs of this process are visible to the untrained eye. Azerbaijan has an advantageous position in the corridor connecting the East and West, Asia and Europe, and can offer China safe transit routes. These paths have already begun to be used since the end of last year.
Despite decreasing trade between China and Azerbaijan because of the pandemic, Azerbaijan remains China’s most important trade and economic partner in the region. Transit through Azerbaijan is considered within the BRI framework as a median transport corridor. This is of symbolic importance given that the middle path in Chinese philosophy is considered the optimal path of development.
In December 2020, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was launched in both directions for the first time. On December 4, a train left Istanbul, and 15 days later, it reached the Chinese city of Xi’an. The first freight train in the direction from China to Azerbaijan arrived at the Baku International Sea Trade Port on February 17, 2021. As a result, the port of Baku is now connected with Qingdao, one of the largest port cities in China.
In the future, the convergence of trans-European and trans-Asian railways via Azerbaijan would revive the ancient Silk Road by means of railway communication along the East-West route.
Broader prospects for China’s use of Azerbaijani transit are opening up the restoration of communications in the region, provided by the peace statement of November 10, 2020, which was signed between the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Unblocking all communications in the South Caucasus, among other advantages, will strengthen Azerbaijan’s position as a trade, economic, transport and logistics link between China and Europe.
The BRI is in line with the strategic interests of Azerbaijan and is received in Azerbaijan with great enthusiasm. In principle, both Azerbaijan and China win here. After all, Azerbaijan has plenty of opportunities to offer China thanks to its modern port and rail infrastructure that enables traffic connecting the western areas of China and Europe via the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route.
The common interests of Azerbaijan and China are growing with confidence and the future of Azerbaijan-China cooperation is promising.