New Czech president risks China’s wrath by calling out Taiwan leader – POLITICO

Petr Pavel, President-elect of the Czech Republic, held a telephone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday, becoming the first elected European head of state to do so, which risks angering China .

European Union leaders have traditionally refrained from direct political contact with Taiwan authorities, limiting official exchanges to civil servants and often conducting dialogue under the radar.

But international attention on Taiwan has increased due to China’s escalating military threats against the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its territory.

Pavel confirmed the conversation on Twitter, saying, “Today I spoke with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. I thanked her for her congratulations and assured her that Taiwan and the Czech Republic share the values ​​of freedom, democracy and human rights We have agreed to strengthen our partnership.

Taiwanese observers have compared Tsai’s phone call with Pavel to one she held with Donald Trump, who also spoke to her as President-elect of the United States.

“Pavel went so far as to answer ‘yes’ to a reporter’s question during one of the pre-election interviews when asked if he would travel to Taiwan if elected president,” said Ivana Karásková , founder of China Observers in Central and Eastern Europe. , a Prague-based think tank. “This decision would be unprecedented because incumbent presidents of EU member states rarely go there. I don’t think of anyone.”

Chinese diplomats in Prague had been “in contact” with Czech authorities in an attempt to prevent Pavel from phoning Taipei, Czech media reported.

In Brussels, diplomats are watching cautiously to see if Beijing will follow with economic retaliation. When Beijing blocked imports from Lithuania in 2021 after it began building ties with Taiwan, the EU had to act on behalf of the Baltic state and took legal action against China at the World Trade Organization. trade.

Pavel’s decision marks a sharp break with his predecessor’s policy towards China. Current Czech President Miloš Zeman, in power since 2013, has advocated a strong pro-Beijing line, although he has become increasingly at odds with other political heavyweights in his home country.

In a striking move, Zeman named Ye Jianming, former chairman of China Energy Company, as his honorary economic adviser – until the billionaire businessman was held incommunicado by Chinese authorities in 2018. It is unclear still not where he is.

“While public opinion didn’t care about the Czech position on China, it’s different in politics,” said Petr Tůma, a visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council. “Those opposed to Zeman used his pro-China policy to distance themselves from the president.”


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