Milan Kajínek

21. 1. 2020

President Milos Zeman recently said he would not attend the 17 + 1 summit scheduled for April 2020 in China. The 17 + 1 platform is Beijing’s project for increasing business and trade between China and 17 Eastern European countries. The Czech President said on 12 January 2020 that he would not go to the summit because China had not fulfilled its promises regarding investment in the Czech Republic.

A few days later, the President’s Chancellor, Vratislav Mynář, said the President might consider taking part in the summit if Chinese representatives were willing to enter into specific project contracts with Czech businessmen.

“I dare say that if the result were concrete projects, not just another memorandum, then the President would consider his participation,” said Chancellor Vratislav Mynář, noting that “everything now depends on the Chinese side”.

Canceled Investment Forum

In the past, representatives of Czech and Chinese companies were discussing investments at the regular China investment forum held in Prague since 2013.

The last forum was scheduled to take place at the end of 2019. It was postponed by the Chinese regime, which according to the Presidential Office, demonstrated dissatisfaction with the actions of Prague City Hall, which terminated the partnership with Beijing, and abolished the planned forum. The Communist Party of China is also annoyed by the statement from Mayor Zdeněk Hrib (Pirates), who criticized the Chinese regime’s actions and the violent repression of ethnic and religious groups in China. More here…

Another factor, according to the President’s Chancellor, behind the postponement of the forum was the planned visit by Senate chairman Jaroslav Kubera (ODS) to Taiwan. Kubera planned to visit Taiwan in February 2020 and meet the newly elected Taiwanese president before traveling to China. However, Senator Kubera suddenly passed away on Jan. 20 at the age of 72. He had held the post of Senator for 20 years.

In October 2019, the Chinese Embassy in Prague protested against the meeting of Senator Kubera with a representative of the Taiwanese Office in Prague. Kubera then replied to the Chinese ambassador that “the Czech Republic is a sovereign country and Beijing must respect that”.

The former chairman of the Senate also mentioned that Taiwan is the third largest Asian trading partner for the Czech Republic. Surprisingly, he also commented on China’s aggressive diplomacy. “China is terribly afraid of ending up like the Soviet Union. If individual regions began to strive for a kind of autonomy,” Kubera told reporters in October 2019.

Kubera is not the only senator who took a critical stance on the Chinese regime. The Czech Senate already criticized China on March 20, 2019, when the Senate session discussed the issue of the “genocide of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in China committed by the Chinese regime”. The outcome of the negotiations was the adoption of a resolution expressing support for the Falun Gong spiritual movement, Christians, Uighurs and Tibetans, and expressing concern about their persecution by the Chinese regime.

The resolution calls on the Chinese regime to stop its persecution; release all prisoners of conscience; and to abide by international human rights conventions.

Turnover in Czech-Chinese relations

In 2014, President Milos Zeman and the Czech political representation promised billions of investments from China, in exchange for a friendly foreign policy towards the Chinese regime.

The initial great promises of investment began to collapse in 2018, when the Chinese company CEFC began to go bankrupt and was hit by corruption scandals. CEFC, which was supposed to be the main Chinese investment firm in the Czech Republic, bought shares in several Czech companies and also bought the Slavia Praha football club.

After mutual disagreements between the City of Prague and the Chinese capital Beijing in 2019, the partnership between the two cities was terminated. Beijing did not want to comply with Prague’s request to remove the political addition to “respect the One China policy” from the partnership agreement. “It turned out that Beijing was primarily enforced the political propaganda in the treaty and not the mutual cooperation and cultural exchange between the two cities, so the city council finally terminated the treaty,” commented Mayor Zdeněk Hřib in October 2019 in an interview for the Czech journalistic project DVTV.

The Chinese regime canceled a tour of China for all Czech orchestras with the name “Prague” in response to the steps of the Prague leadership, regardless of whether they have anything to do with the Czech capital (apart from the name).

This was followed not only by the aforementioned postponement of the Czech-Chinese Investment Forum, but also by the Chinese regime’s threats to suspend funding for the Slavia Praha football club, which was taken over by the Chinese state-owned company CITIC from the failing CEFC. Today, the majority shareholder of the club is the Chinese company Sinobo Group.

“China is responding with retaliation. Some airlines are to be diverted to Croatia and the financing of Slavia Praha should be stopped,” said Czech President Miloš Zeman in October 2019 on the Barrandov TV show.

However, so far none of these so-called “retaliatory measures” have been implemented by the Chinese regime. Five airways between Prague and Chinese cities, as well as the Slavia Prague football club, are working unchanged.

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