China Buys European Influence One Company At A TimeČTK
New York, Aug 13 (CTK) – For China, the Czech courtship was an unqualified victory as it had won a sure friend in Europe, an American military ally and a country once seen as a bulwark for liberal democracy in a strategically important region, The New York Times writes about President Zeman’s visit to China today.
The paper describes the fate of Ye Jianming, the head of the CEFC Chona Energy and an aide to President Milos Zeman, who was detained over economic crime in China this February.
“As Mr. Zeman declared, the Czech Republic hoped to become ‘an unsinkable aircraft carrier of Chinese investment expansion’ in Europe,” the paper writes.
“Then, Mr. Ye was detained in China this year, exposing the Czech Republic to the perils of this new relationship and forcing the president to defend his quick embrace of the Chinese deal maker. While the reason for Mr. Ye’s detention was never made public, critics of the Czech president saw Mr. Ye’s disappearance as proof that the country shouldn’t have tied its future and its fortune to the Chinese,” it adds.
“An emboldened, globally ambitious China is using money, business deals and other incentives to extend its power abroad. The pitch can hold great appeal in a world shaken by Washington’s growing disengagement and Europe’s struggles,” NYT writes.
“Early in his political career, Mr. Zeman, a blunt-spoken populist, warned against toadying up to Russia and China. Those seeking deeper ties with Beijing, he told a local newspaper in 1996, are ‘ready to go under plastic surgery to slant their eyes’,” it adds.
“But the realities in Europe were changing by the time he won the Czech presidency in 2013. The global financial crisis had tested Europe’s unity. Refugees from Syria had begun to arrive, fueling nativist sentiment and pitting local politicians against the bloc’s leaders. Western Europe no longer seemed to be the only option,” NYT writes.
“At the time, Beijing was beginning to pour money and political capital into Eastern and Central Europe as part of a broad bid to increase its heft in Europe. China’s leaders see the region as potentially fertile ground. While Britain, France and Germany welcomed greater investments from Beijing, they still bucked China’s stances on issues like human rights and its claim to control almost all of the South China Sea. Eastern and Central Europe didn’t have the same qualms,” it adds.
“Vaclav Havel, the anti-Communist activist and the country’s first leader after the fall of the Berlin Wall, invited the Dalai Lama to a state visit in 1990, angering Beijing. He had stern words for China. ‘Intimidation, propaganda campaigns, and repression,’ he wrote, ‘are no substitute for reasoned dialogue,’” NYT writes.
“Mr. Zeman, a well-known smoker and drinker who once publicly denied that he showed up at his inauguration drunk, broke with that history. He rejected Havel-era support for the Dalai Lama and its close ties to the government of Taiwan,” it adds.
The paper describes the disappointment at the amount of the Chinese investments.
In 2017, Taiwan invested triple the sum. “If a direct role for Beijing in Czech businesses bothered Mr. Zeman, he has shown little public sign. He is set to make another visit to the Chinese capital this autumn,” the feature concludes.