AMO Research fellows Ivana Karásková and Alžběta Bajerová have contributed to the new policy paper „Perception of China among V4 Political Elites“ with the chapter on the Czech Republic. The policy paper aims to explore the perception of China among the political elites of the V4 countries (Slovakia, Czechia, Hungary, and Poland). It attempts to look within the “black box” of the V4 states and provide an overview of how different politicians and political parties perceive China. This will help shed more light on what factors influence China-related policymaking in the V4 regions, and help predict future policy change (or stagnation) based on shifts in popular support for individual parties.
The policy paper is a result of the project Chinese influence in V4: Understanding the impact on political elites supported by the International Visegrad Fund. The project was coordinated by Central European Institute of Asian Studies (SK) with the Association of International Affairs (CZ), Central, Eastern European Center of Asian Studies (HU) and Center for International Relations (PL) as partners.
For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, China has not been in the focus of the V4 countries. This began to change in light of the 2009 financial crisis. Further impetus for the V4 countries to engage with China came with the establishment of the China-CEEC Cooperation platform (i.e. 17+1) and Belt and Road Initiative.
In Slovakia, China is only rarely a topic of domestic political discourse. Despite the overall Slovak policy towards China, as well as the general perception of China among most parties being pragmatist in nature, every time China became a major political issue, it was related to human rights problems in China, and what Slovakia’s response to them should be.
There is a strong divide between the government and opposition parties in Slovakia. The government parties tend to see China in purely economic terms. On the opposition’s side, most politicians also view China pragmatically and recognize the need to cooperate in many areas, they are also wary of security implications as well as China’s human rights abuses. On the extreme parts of the political spectrum (both left and right), there is a sense of ideological support for China and its current political regime.
The Czech parliamentary parties have displayed internally varying views on China till Beijing’s engagement with the CEE region started in 2013. It was not until then, that the parties formed their more clear-cut positions alongside the pro- or anti-China divide. They did so not due to their ideology leaning, but based on their position as government or opposition parties; the government pursued the promised benefits of political and economic cooperation with China, while the opposition sought to criticize this endeavor as a means of discrediting its political opponents.
Due to the Czech Republic’s tradition of value-oriented foreign policy and negative Czech experience with China’s engagement so far, the overall Czech approach towards China is likely to remain critical, especially in comparison to other Central European states.