Date: 2 February 2022 Author: Patryk Szczotka

Will the New Czech Governing Coalition End Friendly Relations with the PRC?

The new Czech governing coalition views relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) significantly differently than the incumbent Czech President Miloš Zeman. Although most of the key state positions were distributed smoothly, Zeman opposed the appointment of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

SOURCE: FLICRK

The President’s skepticism was caused by the nomination of Jan Lipavský by the Pirate Party. The attitude of Lipavský, who is skeptical of the Czech Republic’s close ties with the PRC and the Russian Federation, may negatively affect relations with these countries.[1] On the other hand, the incumbent President is enthusiastic about cooperation with both of these states.[2] After his nomination Lipavský said that “Russia and China pose a threat to the Czech Republic today. Czech foreign policy must ensure that this resonates sufficiently in all strategic documents but also in practical steps taken internationally.”[3] This certainly did not meet with the approval of the President, who wanted the Czech Republic to become “China’s gateway to Europe.”[4]

Last year, Lipavský was one of those responsible for excluding Russia and China from bidding for contracts to build reactors at the Czech nuclear power plant.[5] The Pirate Party, from which he originates, is known for criticizing Turkish, Chinese, and Russian authorities, accusing them of human rights violations.[6] What is more, Lipavský advocates deepening ties with Taiwan. Last October, he called the Republic of China in Taiwan “an important economic partner of the Czech Republic (…), many times more important than the People’s Republic of China.”[7] He also did not hesitate to publicly reprimand the Chinese Ambassador to the Czech Republic live on TV about the upcoming Olympics Games in Beijing, calling on the Ambassador to “exercise restraint in his statements.”[8] In the end, Petr Fiala, nominated as the new Czech Prime Minister, succeeded and Zeman accepted Lipavsky’s nomination.

Krzysztof Dębiec, analyst at the Centre for Eastern Studies, notes that the influence of Lipavsky and the Pirate Party on Czech foreign policy-making will be rather limited. This is primarily due to the balance of power in the Czech Parliament – the Pirate Party holds only four out of 200 seats. Importantly, the Chancellery of the Government, controlled by the right-wing Civic Democratic Party, also has a strong influence on the country’s relations with other states.[9] In view of these difficulties, it is worth noting that parties which are skeptical of the PRC take part in governing not only in the Czech Republic. The best example is the Federal Republic of Germany, where the Green Party Foreign Minister would also like to abandon close ties with the government in Beijing.[10] Although in the case of both the Czech Republic and Germany the influence of circles that are unfriendly towards the PRC on foreign policy-making is limited, it indicates an increased public interest in value politics.

[1] https://www.politico.eu/article/czech-prime-minister-petr-fiala-prague-jan-lipavsky/

[2] https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2019-10-02/a-crisis-czech-republics-relations-china-and-russia

[3] https://www.euractiv.pl/section/grupa-wyszehradzka/news/jan-lipavsky-piraci-zeman-chiny-rosja-czechy-polska-v4-babisz-grupa-wyszehradzka-izrael-prawa-czlowieka-wartosci-unia-europejska-osw/

[4] https://globalriskinsights.com/2022/01/sino-czech-relations-change-on-the-horizon/

[5] https://www.politico.eu/article/czech-prime-minister-petr-fiala-prague-jan-lipavsky/

[6] https://oko.press/petr-fiala-nowy-czeski-rzad-powrot-europa/

[7] https://praguemorning.cz/the-czech-republic-is-turning-west/

[8] https://wyborcza.pl/7,75399,27995688,czesi-po-wyborach-obieraja-kurs-na-zachod-krytykuja-orbana.html

[9] https://www.euractiv.pl/section/grupa-wyszehradzka/news/jan-lipavsky-piraci-zeman-chiny-rosja-czechy-polska-v4-babisz-grupa-wyszehradzka-izrael-prawa-czlowieka-wartosci-unia-europejska-osw/

[10] https://warsawinstitute.org/baerbocks-tough-stance-china/

 

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This article is a part of the project “The Role and Influence of the People’s Republic of China on Visegrad Group Countries” funded by the International Visegrad Fund.

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