Czech Presiden Milos Zeman to visit China

Zeman calls for ‘restart’ of Chinese relations

President’s comments were met with harsh criticism from politicians

Czech President Miloš Zeman gave an interview to Chinese television ahead of the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. His comments were met with with criticism from several politicians.

Zeman called for a new era in relations between the Czech Republic and China.

“Let us restart because there was a very bad relationship between China and the former government of the Czech Republic. ‘Former government,’ I stress. Because this [former] government has been very submissive to pressure from the United States and the European Union,” Zeman said in a video clip posted on a Facebook page called Xi’s Visit.

Zeman was apparently referring to the government of Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) from 2010 to 2013.

“Now we are again an independent country and we form our foreign policy which is very based on our own interests. National interests. And we do not interfere in the internal affairs of any other country. And that is my explanation of ‘restart,’” Zeman stated.

Miroslav Kalousek, chairman of the opposition TOP 09 party, pointed out that the Czech Republic is a part of the European Union. “So the argument that the EU is making external pressure is absolutely meaningless,” he said on Facebook.

Kalousek added that likewise, the Czech Republic is a part of NATO, which also includes the United States. This has had a long-term effect on security and foreign policy. He also said the “repulsive statements” of the Czech president were a disgrace to everyone.

Foreign trade with China grew strongly in the past when Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) was foreign minister in the Nečas government, Kalousek said, despite that government having pro-Western policies.

Zeman’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček responded on Twitter that Zeman had “straightened the spine” of the Czech Republic and brought back pride after the “sad cowering of footmen” under the direction of TOP 09.

Nečas also responded, saying that his government had a pragmatic policy toward China based on dialogue, and not one side imposing its world views on the other. He said his government made poitive steps in developing relations with China and had several high-level meetings.

Petr Fiala, current chairman of the ODS, also responded on Twitter. “Developing economic relations with China is right, but we cannot fall on our knees and deny our professed values,” he said in one Tweet.

He also commented that Zeman criticized previous governments for not flying the EU flag. “What flag will we fly now?” he asked.

Not only opposition politicians were critical. Pavel Telička, the foreign policy spokesman of coalition member ANO, said Zeman’s remarks showed “shameful ignorance and shameful servility toward China.” he added that Zeman has lost his credibility.

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