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.