China’s influence on the quality of democracy in Georgia
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Despite the Georgian Dream’s democratic agenda to change Saakashvili’s authoritarian regime and its success in achieving the closest-ever relations with the European Union, the democratic quality in Georgia witnessed a decrease during the six-year period between 2013 and 2019. Georgia thus failed to make a historical move and deliver a genuine democratic system. Simultaneously, China – an external actor promoting authoritarianism – emerged in the region and since 2013 substantially strengthened relations with Georgia. The current scholarship fails to systematically and theoretically explain the Chinese impact on the democratic quality in Georgia. Hence, the aim of the following case study is to fill the existing research gap and analyse how China has affected the quality of democracy in Georgia during the 2013-2019 period. The study is framed under the combined theoretical framework of the neo-Institutionalism and modified Linkage and Leverage analytical model. The dependent variable of the research is the degree of democracy and the independent variable – the degree of leverage. The study assesses the degrees of economic, political, and normative leverage to evaluate China’s impact on democracy in Georgia. Additionally, the analysis evaluates the European Union’s as well as Russian leverages to Georgia to avoid merely looking at correlation and instead to be able to demonstrate the causality between the democratic quality in Georgia and China’s leverage to Georgia. The research employs secondary statistical data collection and directed (deductive) qualitative content analysis to identify specific data and themes for the assessment of economic, political and normative leverages of China, the European Union and Russia to Georgia. The research results show that the Chinese leverage to Georgia has been low throughout the entire 2013-2019 period and has remained considerably lower than that of the European Union. The study reveals that China’s mechanisms of autocracy promotion in Georgia, i.e. socialisation and soft power, have not influenced the quality of democracy in Georgia during the period between the years 2013 and 2019. Thus, China has had no impact (or minimal) on the quality of democracy in Georgia.
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