Richard Q. Turcsányi writes about the newly-adopted China strategy in Slovakia.
Slovakia is finally waking up to Chinese initiatives and investments.
Until recently, Slovakia was the Central European nation with the least interest in China. However, Slovakia now is the only country in the region to have a specific “China strategy” – and it might also receive some major Chinese investments soon.
Central Europe: China Enthusiasm With No Clear Strategy
Compared to Slovakia, its three partners in the so-called Visegrad Group (V4) have been much more active in developing relations with China. Poland established a strategic partnership with China in 2011 and is often regarded as the leader of the 16 Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries in their relations with China through the so-called 16+1 platform. Hungary competes for that title and argues that it started its “eastern opening” much earlier, in the early 2000s. Hungary is also home to the largest amount of Chinese FDI and Chinese diaspora population in the region.
The Czech Republic, for its part, has a much more turbulent history when it comes to its approach to China. Before 2012, the country was regarded as perhaps the strongest critic of China in all of Europe. Yet since then, a political reshuffling has caused a nearly perfect U-turn in its diplomatic relations with China and some Czech leaders are now trying to steal for themselves the position of China’s “bridge” or “gateway” to Europe.
As for Slovakia, it attracted some international attention just recently when its president met with the Dalai Lama, which obviously resulted in harsh criticism from China. The country’s prime minister was one of the very few heads of government missing at the 16+1 summit in Suzhou in 2016 and Slovakia also did not send any high-level delegation to the Belt and Road summit in Beijing in 2017. Slovakia did not even have an ambassador in Beijing for about a year in 2016. All in all, the country has been somewhat passive in terms of its China policies.
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