Dear reader,

In this newsletter we cover the situation at the Belarus-Poland border, the visit of the European Parliament delegation to Taiwan, the potential alignment of Czechia’s next Foreign Minister towards China and Russia, and the Uyghur Congress in Prague. 

Over the last two weeks, the situation at the border between Belarus and Poland has escalated into a full-fledged international crisis. The pictures illustrating the suffering of migrants on the Belarusian territory, cornered between Polish and Belarussian security forces, have spread across the globe, but they also underscored the artificial nature of the crisis. The situation was orchestrated by the Belarusian dictator Lukashenko with the support of Moscow. Under severe pressure from Western leaders, both Belarus and Russia have finally started backing off and allowing for a safe return of migrants and refugees from the Middle East to their countries of origin. 

The situation once again exposed the external vulnerabilities of the European community, which has thus far not proven capable of agreeing upon a revised migration policy, nor has it agreed on a strong and united approach towards neighboring countries, most notably Russia. 

In the end, the outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron intervened with the Belarusian and Russian authorities. This, however, invoked expected criticism from Poland and other CEE countries as they were not consulted on the matter. Moreover, through these contacts, Lukashenko may have achieved the goal of partly legitimizing his dictatorship after the rigged elections last year. At the same time, Russian activities near the borders with Ukraine, where Moscow summoned some 90,000 soldiers, raised concerns about coordinated operations across the Eastern flank, seeking to distract the West’s attention. 

Notably, the situation on the Poland-Belarus border also has a bearing on China, as the two countries constitute a key railway corridor for the burgeoning Eurasian rail freight trade. Interestingly, one of the alternative routes to this corridor goes through Lithuania, just as China is promising to punish Vilnius for its outreach to Taiwan. In any case, in accordance with its long-term practice, China has avoided engangling itself in Poland's dispute with Belarus and Russia.

  • European Parliament delegation visits Taiwan. The delegation of the Special Committee on Foreign Interference and Disinformation (INGE) visited Taiwan, representing the first official visit of the European Parliament to the island country. The delegation proclaimed the core aim to “study Taiwanese experiences in addressing interference and manipulation campaigns,” that the island faces from China. The visit follows a series of high-level interactions among Taipei and Brussels and EU countries, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania following their vaccine donations earlier this year. The October report of the European Parliament on relations with Taiwan, first of this kind, anchors Taiwan as “a key partner and democratic ally in the Indo-Pacific” and calls on establishing a Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA). The report also expresses concerns regarding China’s behavior and potential invasion to Taiwan, criticizing also the recent air defense identification zone intrusions. INGE’s visit was also driven by European economic interests, aiming to secure its vulnerabilities, including its dependence on semiconductors industry, that emerged as of paramount importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, as the Parliament reports are legally non-binding, the extent to which the recommendations will be adopted by the member states and the grounds for enlarged cooperation with Taiwan remain uncertain. Importantly, the EU Commission may be reluctant to proceed with the BIA due to its limited benefits and potential to further deteriorate relations with China given that the Comprehensive Agreement of Investment (CAI) is frozen.

  • President Zeman tries to play a kingmaker over Czech Foreign Minister appointment. The five-party coalition forming the new government of the Czech Republic has announced its candidates for ministers who need to be appointed by the President. Meanwhile, President Zeman expressed discontent with one ministerial candidate but did not disclose his name. Jan Lipavský, the Pirates’ candidate to lead the foreign affairs, likely represents this thorn in the President's side, due to his attitude towards Russia and China. For instance, Lipavský opposed involvement of China and Russia in tender on the build-up of the nuclear power plant Dukovany and rejected criticism from Russia regarding removal of Ivan Konev’s statue in Prague. He also frequently emphasizes undermining of human rights and has authored a proposal for a Czech version of a Magnitsky law, enabling sanctions on human rights offenders abroad. Based on the Czech constitution, the President does not have the right to veto the nominees. Nevertheless, a similar scenario occurred during the former government as the President refused to name candidates for Foreign Affairs Minister and Minister of Culture. In both cases, then Prime Minister Andrej Babiš nominated new candidates.
  • The Uyghur Congress in Prague draws Beijing’s anger. In mid-November, a session of the official organization representing the Uyghur minority in the world since 2004, the Uyghur Congress, was held in Prague, under the patronage of Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib. The Uyghur expatriates voted for their exile government for the next three years. Notably, it was revealed that hotel Marriott in Prague refused to host the Congress when approached by the organizers, citing political neutrality. Since Marriott International operates more than 400 hotels in China, the decision might have been motivated by attempts to prevent potential reprisals on the Chinese market. The Chinese Embassy to the Czech Republic condemned the event as “anti-China separatist activity”, calling on the Czech political representatives to refrain from interference in China’s internal matters. China labels the Congress as a terrorist organization and some of its members figure in the Interpol lists, showing the potential abuse of international organizations by authoritarian regimes. As China currently holds little leverage over the Czech Republic, the comments of the Chinese Embassy did not resonate to the same degree as previous condemnations. Namely, consistent threats over engagement with Taiwan amounted to very little, emboldening organizers to run afoul of Beijing’s interest. The EU and the US oppose the human rights abuses in Xinjiang, imposing sanctions on several involved individuals and companies. The US designated the situation in Xinjiang as genocide and considers diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games held in China. Czech Senators have also suggested a boycott earlier this year.
  • MapInfluenCE Founder and Leader Ivana Karásková contributed to the debate on the logic of China’s vaccine diplomacy, moderated by our analyst Filip Šebok. Watch the debate here
  • Alicja Bachulska provided her insights on the INGE’s visit to Taiwan for The Diplomat
  • Regarding the INGE’s visit to Taiwan, watch also the interview with Ivana Karásková for Taiwan Insider
  • AMO’s traditional Agenda for International Affairs 2021 is available in English. Learn more on the last year’s developments in Sino-Czech relations and prospects for changes under the new government in Filip Šebok’s chapter. 

The second mentoring session of the Future CHOICE initiative by our sister project CHOICE is here! It will concentrate on sharing experts’ insights regarding the performance of various professional activities in China, each of whom have a wealth of experience working on the ground in the country. This session is designed for aspiring researchers and journalists considering a career in China-related topics and especially those interested in working on the ground in China.

Please, register for the session here and learn more on the initiative on CHOICE website.

Register here!

Best regards

Veronika Blablová
Data Analyst of MapInfluenCE

Newsletter editor: Filip Šebok

Contributions from: Pavel Havlíček

@MapInfluenCE and #MapInfluenCE








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