Prague must show goodwill to mend market confidence

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Source: Global Times

A view of the empty Old Town Square in Prague, the Czech Republic Photo: Xinhua

According to media reports, Zuzana Ceralová Petrofová, president of Czech piano maker Petrof, said a customer in Beijing just canceled an order on the grounds that Czech Senate Speaker Milos Vystrcil’s recent visit to Taipei city had severely disrupted a normal China-Czech relationship. The cancellation has attracted rising attention among Chinese netizens as some began to suggest it was Beijing’s “retaliation” against the Czech Republic.

While information and explanation from the specific Chinese buyer are still unavailable, if the company did cancel the order due to the Czech politician’s visit that seriously trampled on the one-China principle, it still should be seen as an individual move by an individual business.

After all, the order, at the price tag of merely 5 million Czech koruna ($220,000), is too small to be a credible sign of retaliation by China’s government.

Nevertheless, even if the cancellation is not an action directed by Beijing or the news itself turns out to be false or a misunderstanding, it still underlines simmering market concerns below the surface that relations between China and the Czech Republic have encountered a serious problem that will cause a wide range of consequences in many areas in the coming months.

Anyone who has a basic understanding of China’s national conditions is certainly aware of the one-China principle. So Vystrcil’s visit to Taipei city constituted a serious infringement on China’s national sovereignty, undermining the foundation of the bilateral relations.

And it is not hard to conceive how the loss of market confidence would affect economic activities, an annoying disruption to otherwise smooth trade and investment plans.

Both countries have seen bilateral economic ties strengthen over the years, particularly since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, with China seen as increasingly important for the Czech Republic’s foreign trade. Statistics showed that in 2019, bilateral trade grew to $29.3 billion, accounting for 7.8 percent of the Czech Republic’s total trade.

Moreover, an increasing number of Chinese companies have come to make investment in the Czech Republic, which has already become an important window for Chinese investment in Europe. It would be regrettable to see such momentum of cooperation affected by a politically malicious move.

It may be an undeniable fact that there are different views and voices toward some China-related issues in the Czech Republic, which is why the Czech government officially honors the one-China principle, but Vystrcil’s right-wing opposition party may not.

However, even if the Taiwan visit is only an individual action by a particular flamboyant politician, the Chinese market may not bother to distinguish whether their trading partners are on the friendly side or the hostile side.

Politicians that made the reckless provocation against a country’s sovereignty should take responsibility for all the consequences.

In the meantime, we also hope the Czech government can show more kindness to eliminate the negative impact of this unpleasant incident on bilateral relations as soon as possible.

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