Chinese companies diversify Azerbaijan's economy and can do more in country's green growth: top diplomat
Published: Mar 25, 2024 08:51 PM Updated: Mar 25, 2024 09:15 PM
Editor's Note: 

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was sworn in for a new term in February. How will President Aliyev develop relations with China during the new term? How does relations with China play in Azerbaijan's overall foreign policy? Global Times reporter Xie Wenting (GT) recently talked to Assistant of President of Azerbaijan for Foreign Policy Affairs Hikmat Hajiyev (Hajiyev), who recently visited China to discuss bilateral cooperation. Hajiyev noted that the development of relations with China has been a top priority for Azerbaijan and the country fully supports the one-China policy. As Azerbaijan will host COP29 this year, the top diplomat said that the country seeks to build understanding and solidarity between the "Global North" and "Global South," and he praised China as a champion for green technology. 

Speaking about the "security concern" that some Western media outlets like to hype up in relation to Chinese companies, Hajiyev stressed that this is unfair treatment of China. He said that he has been using Huawei products for many years and the country looks to expand cooperation with more Chinese companies including with Huawei.  

Hikmat Hajiyev, Assistant of President of Azerbaijan for Foreign Policy Affairs Photo: Chen Tao/GT

Hikmat Hajiyev, Assistant of President of Azerbaijan for Foreign Policy Affairs Photo: Chen Tao/GT

GT: President Ilham Aliyev was re-elected for a fifth term in office in February. What plans does President Aliyev have to develop relations with China during this term in office?

Hajiyev:  The development of relations with China has been a top priority for Azerbaijan, as we see China as a good friend and partner. There is also a historical relationship between our countries. Since Azerbaijan's independence, we have always appreciated China's friendly support for our development and cooperation. 

President Aliyev has set new priorities and an agenda for the development of the country, which is not only comprehensive but also ensures the full territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan. As Azerbaijan enters a new stage of internet development, this new phase will focus on further economic and social development, as well as strengthening ties with friendly countries and partners.

Therefore, we are looking forward to enhancing our strategic cooperation and partnership with China. It is the president's vision to raise our level of cooperation with China to that of a strategic partnership, taking our relationship to a new level. Our political relations are excellent, and in areas such as economic trade, transport, and energy, we are in close cooperation. 

However, we believe there is much more potential for business collaboration. China is not only seen as a friendly country, but also as a source of knowledge, expertise, and technological advancement. Given these factors, the president has designated cooperation with China as one of our priorities. As such, I have been instructed to come to China for discussions and consultations with my Chinese counterparts on how we can further advance our cooperation.

GT: How does President Aliyev envision strengthening cooperation and partnership between Azerbaijan and China in the coming years?

Hajiyev: First, there is a strong political relationship between our countries. We always support the one-China policy. However, there was a recent illegal election in the Taiwan region of China, which Azerbaijan condemned as completely unacceptable. 

Now, we see steady growth in the trade relationship between the two countries, but it is not the ultimate end. There are more prospects for that. First, I would like to see more Chinese companies in Azerbaijan. Chinese companies are already present in diversifying Azerbaijan's economy, but we are expecting more as Azerbaijan moves toward green growth. 

Digital transformation is the number one priority for Azerbaijan in our national priorities, based on our sustainable development goals. In our green transition agenda, we see China as a partner for us. We are also asking our Chinese friends to establish production lines for renewable energies in Azerbaijan. The electric automobile industry in China is one of the leading industries in the world. Currently, we are purchasing electric buses and other equipment from China. We would like to establish a manufacturing base in Azerbaijan in partnership with Chinese companies. 

Most importantly, we see the Chinese-Azerbaijan partnership as significant within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), particularly in the context of the Middle Corridor. The Middle Corridor could become an important linkage between China and the European Union. Azerbaijan, along with Central Asian countries, situated along the Caspian and Black Sea, can be strong partners in connectivity linkages. This aligns well with the BRI and underscores the strategic partnership between China and Azerbaijan.

GT: Azerbaijan will host COP29 this year. Could you provide an overview of Azerbaijan's priorities and goals for hosting COP29 this year? 

Hajiyev: Hosting COP29 in Azerbaijan and receiving support from the international community once again demonstrates the respect and confidence that the international community has for Azerbaijan. Assuming the chairmanship and effectively hosting COP29 is a significant achievement and a particular deliverable for Azerbaijan. It presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the country.

As a fossil fuel exporting country, Azerbaijan has shown a strong willingness and determination to pursue the current transition project and agenda at the local, regional, and global levels. Climate change is a major challenge for everyone, and it is essential for the global community to unite their efforts. Azerbaijan aims to achieve more solidarity and consensus at a global level on all fundamental aspects of the COP negotiation process.

Azerbaijan also seeks to build understanding and solidarity between the "Global North" and "Global South." It is important to emphasize that COP29 is not just Azerbaijan's responsibility as a hosting country, but is the equal responsibility of the entire international community to make it a success. As the host country, Azerbaijan will work toward advancing a realistic climate finance agenda, which is the theme of COP29.

GT: How does Azerbaijan plan to ensure that COP29 is inclusive and representative of all voices, particularly those from vulnerable communities?

Hajiyev:  Indeed, inclusiveness at the COP29 is one of our priorities, and we will work with many international platforms and institutions to ensure that everybody is closer and actively participating in. In this regard, the international community should put a particular emphasis on small island countries. Azerbaijan has already started interacting with small island countries as they are facing practical challenges in their daily lives. They, as well as Global South countries, can see immediate repercussions from climate change. 

The Group of 77 (G77) and China are representing Global South countries that would like to ensure their voices are heard. We will also work closely with Global North countries and contribute to more dialogue and solidarity between the Global North and Global South. Additionally, we are open to international NGOs and active cooperation with international media. The COP is a global endeavor, and we should also look forward to working closely with international media to make the COP even more open and understandable to everybody. Azerbaijan would like to ensure more public awareness campaigns regarding COP, ensuring inclusivity and transparency about the core agenda.

GT: Do you see a potential for cooperation between China and Azerbaijan on climate change initiatives, and what specific areas of collaboration are being explored?

Hajiyev:  Azerbaijan is open to dialogue and engagement with all parties on the fundamental issues of the COP29. The People's Republic of China is one of the leading countries in the world. Therefore, having initial consultations and discussions to understand China's position in the negotiation process is crucially important for us. 

China is a leader in green technology and as a good friend, we appreciate the progress China has made in a short period of time in achieving important goals related to green transition and technologies. Based on China's concept of the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and sharing technologies and achievements with developing countries, we look forward to working together to ensure the voice of the Global South is heard and understood within the core process. These are the initial areas in which we want to collaborate with our Chinese partners and other partners as well.

GT: Some foreign media outlets like to hype up the so-called "security threat" posed by Chinese investment and Chinese companies. What's your take on it?

Hajiyev: This is unfair treatment of China. Chinese technologies, such as Huawei, are some of the best in the world. For many years, I have been using Huawei products and their technology is also helping a digital transformation in my country. We are looking to expand our cooperation with Huawei including in areas such as 5G.

Some other countries engage in unnecessary propaganda, particularly in relation to security and other issues, which hinders genuine competition and economic development. It is important for economic development to be based on fair competition. Unfortunately, certain companies in certain countries chose to spread propaganda against Chinese companies instead of promoting open trade and fair competition. This is not in line with our agenda. We value our partnership with Chinese companies and the People's Republic of China, and appreciate their openness and cooperation. 

Working together with Chinese partners contributes to technological development in our country. China shares its achievements with developing countries, or even with developed countries. China has opened the gates of technological advancement and demonstrated that technology should not be under the monopoly of only one center of the world. 

GT: China is advancing the building of a great country and national rejuvenation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. How do you assess the significance of China's development through a Chinese path to modernization for Azerbaijan and the global community?

Hajiyev: China's development is exemplary in itself. China has built itself into a prosperous country and society. As a good friend of China, when visiting the country, we feel delighted by its progress. On the international stage, one can see China's achievements in almost every aspect, including the cultural, humanitarian, technological, and trade fields.

In the meantime, China contributes to global development. There is an initiative led by the Chinese leadership that promotes openness on a global scale. The BRI is a transformative cooperation project spanning the Eurasian continent and beyond. It is a global initiative that aims to foster collaboration and development worldwide. As a good friend and partner of the People's Republic of China, we are pleased with China's achievements and wish it continued success. 

China's successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic serves as a model for other nations. We, from Azerbaijan, are grateful for China's support and cooperation. When some Western countries engaged in vaccine nationalism, stockpiling more vaccines than needed, Azerbaijan faced challenges in accessing vaccines. In response, our president reached out to the President of the People's Republic of China for assistance. Despite facing their own challenges with COVID-19, China generously shared vaccines with Azerbaijan, contributing to the health and well-being of our people. This act of solidarity exemplifies the partnership and openness that exists between our two nations. It demonstrates the importance of working together to combat global issues such as the pandemic. 

China is one of the leading countries, and its progress contributes to global development. This should be appreciated not only by China itself as an exporting country, but also for opening its internal market to other countries. Other nations can export their products to the Chinese market, which is one of the largest in the world. 

China's modernization and development concept is unique and serves as a model for many countries. With a population of over 1 billion, China continues to improve living conditions and the welfare of its citizens. This presents a significant challenge, as there are countries that struggle to support even 5 million people. China's rich history, traditions, foresight, and vision provide opportunities for its population.