If the Czech Republic’s relations with China were fraying over the previous 12 months, they’ve hit a new low after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reacted furiously into a top Czech politician’s trip to Taiwan.
Speaking during a state visit to Germany,” Wang explained that Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil’s coming in Taipei this week, the highest-level assembly between Czech and Taiwanese officials up to now, is”an act of global treachery”.
He added that Beijing” will not require a laissez-faire mindset or sit idly by, and certainly will make [Vystrcil] pay a hefty price because of his short-sighted behavior and political opportunism”.
Whether that escalates beyond keywords between Prague and Beijing is uncertain at this stage, however, it comes because the Czech Republic experiences a deep questioning of its foreign policy interests.
Not only does this lack consensus among political elites regarding if Prague should appear west or west, but different groups are attempting to steer the nation’s global focus in reverse directions.
Zeman seems East
In 2015, he encouraged the nation as a”gateway to Europe” to China and was appointed as an advisor Chinese tycoon Ye Jianming, whose CEFC China Energy company invested heavily in the nation until Ye was detained in Beijing in 2018 on corruption charges.
Zeman has also strived to create closer ties to Russia, such as his resistance to sanctioning Russia after it annexes Crimea from Ukraine.
Hrib, of this resistance Pirate Party, the nation’s third-strongest group, has canceled the funding’s sister-city connection with Beijing, affirmed Tibetan liberty, and sanctioned the ripping down of figurines of Soviet-era generals in Prague.
Other resistance groups are also attempting to induce change from external authorities. Czech Senate President Vystrcil — whose trip Taiwan this week has made headaches in Prague — is now a part of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the nation’s third party in parliament, that is also campaigning for a harder line on Beijing.
Meanwhile, the Czech public stays doggedly anti-China. A Pew Research Centre poll from last year discovered Czechs held that the second-worst perspectives of China among Europeans.
Sitting somewhere involving the eastern-looking ambitions of President Zeman and the resistance team’s westward-facing urge is Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ government.
“So while he’s a political player to guess, foreign policy is accomplished by the authorities, that has been broadly, nevertheless lukewarmly, pro-Atlantic and pro-European,” she added.
Babis’ authorities have tended to side with Washington amid the global dispute over Huawei, the Chinese technology company that the US government accuses of spying on behalf of Beijing. In December 2018, the nation’s cybersecurity bureau, NUKIB, cautioned of the hazards of Huawei technology.
But, Babis’ government is sensitive to disturbing Beijing lest it impacts Czech-Chinese trade, which was worth approximately US$30 billion ($25 billion) annually.
Another matter, Karaskova mentioned, is that Babis’ coalition government is dependent upon the help of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia’s 15 parliamentarians, which further complicates its position on Russia and China.
After US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the Czech Republic the last month seemed keen to pull the threads dividing the nation’s political elite, stressing the Czech Republic should regain its powerful pro-American stance.
Speaking ahead of the Czech Senate, he castigated”the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts of coercion and control” as possibly a greater global threat than the Soviet Union place throughout the Cold War, a remark meant to resonate at a country that has been invaded by Soviet troops in 1968 throughout the reformist-communist”Prague Spring”.
An issue a century in the making
In various ways, the matter of if Czech foreign policy must lean closer to Russia and China or outside the united states is an existential question about European national politics, also. After Czechoslovakia was founded in 1918, it believed itself the most”Western” in democracy and liberalism of newly-founded Eastern and Central European nations, and openly recognized its close connections with France and the United States.
Woodrow Wilson, the US president at the time, was a significant proponent of Czechoslovakian liberty and Wilson City was among many suggested names for Bratislava, today the capital of Slovakia.
Following decades of Nazi afterward Soviet hegemony, the nation’s pro-Western orientation had been resurrected following the collapse of communism in 1989, allowing for its so-called”return to Europe”.
These days, however, Havel’s democratic, liberal, and pro-Western perspectives are experiencing a revival amongst critics of these authorities and President Zeman. The biggest protests since the dissolution of communism in 1989 happened last November, largely contrary to the Zeman’s allegedly autocratic style of leadership and Prime Minister Babis’ alleged corruption, which included investigations within his business dealings from the EU.
Therefore, anti-Beijing and anti-Moscow belief from the Czech Republic has turned into a way for individuals to share their support for liberal and democratic ideals in national politics.
“This is going to be a visit to honor the soul of overdue Czech President Vaclav Havel,” Vystrcil said in a press conference after arriving in Taipei on Monday. The Czech Republic, he added, “will collaborate with democratic nations, irrespective of if somebody else needs it not.”
How Deutsche’s foreign policy is influenced by his trip but depends in large part on whether the Chinese government follows through with all the threats made by its foreign ministry.
“China will all have to reveal a difficult face in the front of the national nationalistic audience and to dissuade other states from after the Czech instance,” states Richard Q Turcsanyi, program manager at Central European Institute of Asian Studies at Palacky University Olomouc in the Czech Republic.
“On the flip side,” he added, “being overly hard dangers further worsening relations with the EU that’s a crucial global partner for China in the time of high tensions with the United States.”
Sources told Euronews they are unsure of if Wang, who’s on a two-week charm offensive in Europe, was talking directly on requests from Beijing and if the threats made against Vystrcil additionally extend into the several companies that were part of the 90-member delegation to Taipei.
“The worst possible scenario is an immediate retaliation against fledgling businesses” as well as expelling the Catholic ambassador in Beijing,” Vladimir Tomsik, that will likely result in similar measures from the side, states Karaskova, of the Association for International Affairs.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek, who had openly criticized Vystrcil’s trip to Taiwan, was made to return his defense and on Monday summoned the Chinese ambassador to Prague, Zhang Jianmin, to clarify Wang’s remarks.
“The excursion has, of course, a direct effect on relations with China, but I believe that’s crossed the line,” Petricek stated on Monday, speaking to his native counterpart’s risks against Vystrcil.