Is China losing the Czech Republic?

Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, made waves and garnered media attention a few months ago when the city’s mayor, Zdenek Hrib, had a public spat with China over the status of Taiwan. Beijing severed its sister-city relationship with Prague as a result.

Prague continued to push back against Beijing. According to Agence France-Presse, Hrib has “condemned China as an ‘unreliable partner’ and told a German newspaper his city will sign a twinning agreement with Taiwan’s capital Taipei.”

But Beijing’s problems in the country may run beyond just Prague, and have more significant effects on China’s image in Central and Eastern Europe more broadly. The South China Morning Post reports:

China’s lack of investment in central Europe has upset one of its staunchest supporters in the region, with the Czech president snubbing an invitation to attend a summit in Beijing in April.

Czech President Milos Zeman, a long-standing advocate of closer ties with China, voiced disappointment about Chinese investment on the weekend just as China was hoping to attract central and eastern European nations to the “17+1 summit”, an event to be chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I don’t think the Chinese side has done what it promised. I’m talking about investments. And that means that even though a prominent political figure will be there, it won’t be the president,” Czech newspaper Blesk quoted Zeman as saying,

Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamacek will attend in his place.

For more background, see two Sinica Podcast episodes with Martin Hála of Charles University in Prague — China’s push into Eastern Europe and The saga of CEFC — and also a roundup of news from 2017, Chinese cash now reaches all of Central and Eastern Europe.

—Lucas Niewenhuis