The development of the partnership agreement between Prague and Beijing “has illuminated the ways China uses its economic clout as it tries to get its way diplomatically and looks to secure a foothold in the European marketplace,” the New York Times writes in a new piece.
The Times’ article focuses mainly on the events that occurred after Zdeněk Hřib, the mayor of Prague, started to question the partnership agreement between Prague and Beijing following pressure from China to adhere to the communist country’s “one-China policy”.
The policy sees countries like Taiwan belonging to one sovereign state under the control of China despite claims from Taiwan’s government that it remains independent from China.
According to the report, China asserted its diplomatic pressure during a New Year’s meeting between the Czech mayor and Chinese diplomats. At the meeting, Hřib refused to comply with a request from the Chinese ambassador, who demanded Hřib expel the Taiwanese diplomat.
According to the Times, this incident led to diplomatic spat, “which could cause permanent damage to Czech-Chinese relations.”
Furthermore, the Times points out that the disagreements between Prague City Council and Beijing illustrate “how China uses its economic clout as it tries to get its way diplomatically.”
To increase pressure on the Czech mayor, China reacted to Hřib’s refusal by issuing threats and taking actions against institutions tied to the city.
The situation in Czech-Chinese relations was completely different before Hřib became the mayor of Prague, states the Times. In 2016, for example, Chinese President Xi Jinping, invited by President Miloš Zeman, visited Prague.
The purpose of these closer ties with China was to bring investments to the Czech Republic.
“Three years later, much of the investment has not materialized,” the Times wrote and even pointed out that a panda from China has not become a new attraction of the Prague Zoo, as was previously promised.
Pandas can be seen in only a few zoos in Europe. All large pandas kept outside China remain Chinese property as Beijing only lends them to foreign countries.
After reaching reproductive age, these borrowed pandas must return to China.