Georgians have more negative attitudes towards the Chinese than other foreigners in Georgia

Georgia is often famed for its hospitality. While the country is more tolerant of other ethnicities, relative to Armenia and Azerbaijan, it has also experienced a rise in nationalist rhetoric and movements in recent years. A number of incidents have also taken place, with hate crime directed towards immigrants and religious and ethnic minorities. This blog post looks at attitudes towards different migrant groups based on a survey experiment in the Caucasus Barometer 2017 survey.

On CB 2017, respondents were randomly assigned to be asked one of five questions. The basic text read, “In your opinion, will the foreigners that come to live in Georgia contribute to the economic development of Georgia or not?” In the other four questions, respondents were asked about Russians, Americans and Europeans, Chinese, and Turkish people instead of foreigners. Since each group was randomly assigned, it is possible to look at whether attitudes to any of these groups differ from foreigners in general without base lining effects (i.e. the respondent reporting their attitudes towards one group based on a comparison with the previous groups they were asked about).

The results suggest they do. Only 11% of Georgians think that the Chinese people who come to live in Georgia will contribute to the country’s economic development and 40% think they will not. In contrast, 23% think “Foreigners” without their nationality specified will contribute and 26% that they won’t. People are also relatively more negative towards Turkish people, with 32% reporting a negative attitude.

The above results suggest a relatively lower level of tolerance for Chinese and Turkish migrants relative to people from Russia and “Americans and Europeans.” The importance of tolerance aside, this matters for Georgia’s economic development. Turkey and China are important trade partners for the country, with Turkey consistently being one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in Georgia. Looking to the future, Georgia is likely to have more economic relations with China due to its strategic position along China’s New Silk Road project. A lack of tolerance towards these groups, if anything, will work against improving economic relations.

While the pattern is clear, the sources for the particularly negative attitudes towards Chinese people is less so. Have a hunch on the cause(s)? Join the conversation on our Facebook or Twitter pages. The data used in this post is available from CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.