PRAGUE (Reuters) – Fizzled investments, cyber security warnings and a Prague mayor defying Beijing by forging his own diplomatic path are muddying inroads China has made into the Czech Republic as it seeks to extend its influence in Europe.
Finding a more hospitable reception on eastern ground than in western Europe in recent years, China had been keen to take advantage of a Czech hunger to foster ties, led by President Milos Zeman, who has curried political favor with Beijing since taking office in 2013.
Czech - Perspective - Relationship - Investment - Nation
From the Czech perspective, the relationship was aimed at drawing Chinese investment into the nation of 10.7 million and opening the door for Czech companies to do business in the world’s second-largest economy.
But a series of diplomatic spats since the start of the year has frayed relations, and highlighted the limited returns the Czechs have received for Zeman’s goodwill.
Surprise - Chinese - Vaclav - Kopecky - China
“It must be a big surprise for the Chinese,” said Vaclav Kopecky, a China expert at Prague’s Association for International Affairs. “They expected… they wouldn’t have any problems. It turned quickly in a very different direction.”
The Czechs had kept Communist-run China at arm’s length following the 1989 Velvet Revolution that propelled Vaclav Havel – a personal friend of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Chinese-ruled Tibet – into office.
Zeman - Parade - Beijing - End - World
That changed under Zeman. In 2015, he attended a military parade in Beijing to mark the end of World War Two, the only Western leader to do so, and he has visited China five times, more than neighboring Germany.
He also took the Czech Republic’s richest man, billionaire Petr Kellner, to a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014. Kellner’s Home Credit has become one of the biggest consumer lenders in China.
Relations - Analysts - China - Belt - Road
These better relations, analysts say, aligned with China’s global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aimed at linking trading...
Wake Up To Breaking News!
With God all things are possible, but not probable.