Prague’s Taipei move serves anti-China forces

By Gao Jian Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/21 22:18:40

The Voltava River runs through the city of Prague, capital of Czech Republic.  Photo: Xinhua/Zheng Huansong

Shanghai terminated its sister-city relationship with Prague on January 14 after the Czech capital signed a sister-city agreement with Taipei of Taiwan island. In contempt of the joint statement on establishing a strategic partnership between China and the Czech Republic, Prague authorities openly challenged the one-China principle on major issues involving China's core interests, prompting the Chinese side to naturally react. The culprit in such a situation is the unreliable "anti-China" mayor of Prague.   

Zdenek Hrib, mayor of Prague, held managerial and consulting positions in the healthcare industry before entering politics. He became a registered member of the Czech Pirate Party and lost the 2014 Prague municipal election. In the 2018 election, the Pirates formed a governing coalition with two other parties, which enabled Hrib to be elected as the mayor of Prague. He may have well recognized the weak basis for his leadership. Unfortunately, since taking office, the mayor has not mulled over how to improve the city, but has dedicated himself to publicity stunts to score political points. 

He has frequently made anti-China remarks that violate China's core interests in the Western media, condemning China as an "unreliable partner." This political novice has taken advantage of the media to portray himself as a defender of Western values. 

Bilateral relations between China and the Czech Republic have made great strides in recent years. Jointly promoted by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Czech President Milos Zeman, China-Czech cooperation has achieved remarkable results in the economic and trade sphere. 

The Czech government sticks to the "one China" policy. Handling the country's foreign policy and foreign affairs is supposed to be the responsibility of the Czech government. However, the Prague mayor has repeatedly crossed the line, violated the diplomatic position of the Czech government and served Western forces opposed to China. Hrib's high-profile anti-China stunt is intended to gain political advantage. It is also related to the country's current political power structure.   

Since the 1980s, the Czech Republic has been a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, with the prime minister as head of government. The parliament of the Czech Republic, following a Western political model, consists of two chambers. The Czech Pirate Party that Hrib is a member of is not a traditional mainstream political party. It entered the Chamber of Deputies in 2017 only with about 10 percent of votes while its seats in the Senate can almost be ignored. But in Prague, it is the governing party. Because of the multi-party parliamentary system and the local self-government system, Western anti-China forces can find room to maneuver in the Czech Republic, which has led to different voices on specific issues concerning China. 

It is worth mentioning that the Czech Republic has adopted a very subtle attitude toward the question of using Huawei to roll out 5G technology. The Czech prime minister ordered his government office to stop using mobile phones manufactured by Chinese tech giant Huawei in December 2018, but he fired the country's cybersecurity chief who had warned of threats presented by Huawei not long ago. However, so far the Czech government has not provided a clear answer to whether Huawei is allowed to participate in building its 5G network. We have to admit that the influence that Western anti-China forces represented by the US have had on the Czech Republic cannot be underestimated.  

Even so, China-Czech relations have made some progress in 2019. China regards the Czech Republic as an important strategic partner in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. The two governments show great potential for promoting cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, logistics and transportation. China has responded positively to the Czech Republic's ambition to become a financial hub in Central and Eastern Europe and strengthened financial cooperation with the country. China is willing to engage in talks with the Czech government on the feasibility of setting up a yuan settlement mechanism in Prague.

It is believed that the development of bilateral relations will not be hindered by Hrib and his like. It can be expected that China-Czech relations will continue to advance in 2020. 

The author is secretary general of the Shanghai Academy of Global Governance and Area Studies at Shanghai International Studies University.

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