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New Study Maps Czech And Slovak Local Governments’ Ties To China

January 16th, 2022 15:03

The Cen­tral Euro­pean Insti­tute for Asian Stud­ies (CEIAS), a pan-Euro­pean think tank, has recent­ly pub­lished a study exam­in­ing the inter­ac­tions of local Czech and Slo­va­kian gov­ern­ments with Chi­na. Accord­ing to the CEIAS study, at least 32 sub-nation­al enti­ties in the Czechia and 14 enti­ties in Slo­va­kia were found to have “agree­ment-based coop­er­a­tion with Chi­nese part­ners” and that the cor­re­spond­ing  rela­tion­ships suf­fer from a lack of transparency:

Decem­ber 2021 By map­ping paradiplo­mat­ic rela­tions of 126 sub-nation­al enti­ties in Slo­va­kia and 241 sub-nation­al enti­ties in Czechia (regions, cities, and city dis­tricts), we have iden­ti­fied that at least 32 sub-nation­al enti­ties in the Czechia and 14 enti­ties in Slo­va­kia have had some kind of agree­ment-based coop­er­a­tion with Chi­nese part­ners. Paradiplo­mat­ic rela­tions both with Chi­na suf­fer from incon­sis­tent trans­paren­cy lev­els, which reduces the abil­i­ty to exer­cise pub­lic con­trol over these rela­tions, and as a result, con­tributes towards a cul­ture of non-account­abil­i­ty. […] Activ­i­ties of sub-nation­al Chi­nese actors are super­vised by the Chi­nese People’s Asso­ci­a­tion for Friend­ship with For­eign Coun­tries (CPAFFC), a nom­i­nal­ly inde­pen­dent friend­ship orga­ni­za­tion with links to the par­ty-state. Local rela­tions are seen in Chi­na as a form of pub­lic diplo­ma­cy that can help achieve for­eign pol­i­cy goals via non­po­lit­i­cal channels. […]

In Czechia, devel­op­ment in local rela­tions went in step with the cen­tral government’s restart of ties with Bei­jing. A major­i­ty of local part­ner­ships were formed in the 2014–2017 peri­od. Fol­low­ing the same log­ic, the wors­en­ing of bilat­er­al rela­tions on a gov­ern­men­tal lev­el was fol­lowed by a decrease of inter­est in coop­er­a­tion and ulti­mate­ly also the ter­mi­na­tion of six part­ner­ships. Despite ear­li­est rela­tions going back to the ear­ly 1990s, Slo­vak sub-nation­al enti­ties start­ed to express their inter­est in devel­op­ing ties with Chi­na most­ly after 2012 and peaked in 2016.

Read the full study here.

The study notes that in both Czechia and Slo­va­kia, rela­tion­ships were pri­mar­i­ly spear­head­ed by politi­cians from Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ties. How­ev­er, in Decem­ber 2020, we report­ed that a high-pro­file con­ser­v­a­tive Czech MEP was act­ing as an agent of Chi­nese influ­ence in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, where he head­ed the EU-Chi­na Friend­ship Group. The  Group was lat­er sus­pend­ed fol­low­ing a deci­sion by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment that it was too close to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. The CEIAS study argues that local gov­ern­ments need to improve the trans­paren­cy of their paradiplo­mat­ic rela­tions and should con­duct due dili­gence before engag­ing with Chi­nese partners.

In Sep­tem­ber, we report­ed on anoth­er CEIAS study argu­ing that Chi­nese cor­ro­sive cap­i­tal is being used in Slo­va­kia and Czechia to access crit­i­cal assets,  facil­i­tate elite cap­ture, and dis­tort local dis­course on Chi­na. In May, we report­ed on a study argu­ing that in Czechia, Chi­nese soft pow­er is “in a state of free fall” while Chi­na is not active­ly pro­ject­ing its soft pow­er in Slovakia.