New Czech president risks Chinese wrath with Taiwan call
The newly elected president, Petr Pavel, of the Czech Republic has defied China by calling the president of Taiwan.
The call breaches Chinese attempts to isolate Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a breakaway province with no right to diplomatic recognition.
President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan and the Czech Republic “enjoy deep ties and share the values of freedom, democracy and human rights”, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported.
“Based on these cordial ties, the government of Taiwan looked forward to deepening exchanges and cooperation with the Czech Republic in key areas, including semiconductor design, talent cultivation in cutting-edge technologies and supply-chain restructuring,” presidential representative Lin Yu-chan was quoted saying.
Pavel is due to be sworn in as president in early March, replacing President Milos Zeman, who was vocally pro-Beijing.
Zeman’s staff said the outgoing president spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping this month and reaffirmed their personal friendship.
The centre-right Czech government, which took office last year, said it aims to deepen cooperation with democratic Indo-Pacific states, including Taiwan, and is seeking a “revision” of relations with China.
Amid bellicose language from Beijing about a possible invasion, sales of tanks and missiles to Taiwan have increased, compulsory military service is expected to be extended and the island’s defence industry is being stepped up.
Then-US Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several European Union representatives visited in late 2022, sparking military exercises from both sides.
Taiwan is recognised as the official government of China by 14 nations, mainly minor states in the Caribbean and South Pacific, but it has firm unofficial relations with more than 100 countries. Several European politicians whose nations were occupied by the Soviet Union have been keen to establish relations with Taiwan.
Jiří Pehe, director of New York University in Prague, told The Guardian that the election of a non-populist president would mark a significant shift for the Czech Republic.
“Pavel will be a huge change – this cannot be overestimated,” the political analyst said. “We’ve had in the last 10 years a president who in many ways was a disgrace for the Czech Republic. He was pro-Russian, bypassed the constitution and was rude and offensive.
“Pavel will try his best to somehow represent the whole of society. He is someone who has a respect for the rules of the game.”
Petr Pavel while he was a Nato deputy commander. Picture credit: Tasnimnews