Dear reader,

In this newsletter: The China-Russia entente reaches new heights, Polish President Duda visits Beijing, Slovakia seeks pragmatic cooperation with Taiwan, and the Czech cybersecurity watchdog issues 5G security recommendations.

China has gone to great lengths to stress that the Olympics are apolitical. However, the strongest signal emanating from Beijing was a geopolitical one. The Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met for the 38th time on the sidelines of the Games, shortly afterward issuing a joint statement that may well become a major milestone in bilateral ties.

The document underlined the ever-closer relationship between the two powers, united by their joint opposition to the US-led Western liberal order. It seems no coincidence that the first point of the statement revolves around Sino-Russian opposition to the Western “monopolization” of the term democracy. Not measuring up to that definition, Russia and China have been cast as international pariahs, most lately at the December “Summit of Democracies” organized by Washington. Therefore, the two powers are setting about shifting the definition of the term and legitimizing their own regimes under their own definitions and norms rather than the West’s.

While the axis between Beijing and Moscow is not new, the willingness to support each other’s strategic interests is growing. In the statement, Beijing joined Russia in its opposition to NATO enlargement in Europe. While China has long habitually rejected military alliances of any kind, the explicit statement against NATO expansion is an unusual one, especially in the context of the ongoing crisis over Ukraine – although the country was not mentioned anywhere in the statement.

Clearly, Beijing feels comfortable enough to step directly into European security issues, which it has been very cautious about in the past. It might be that Beijing is not worried that much about the impact of its actions, as its involvement in any conflict in Europe is out of the question and it does not have any military commitment to Russia. However, firmly standing on Russia’s side may only worsen China’s already waning public image and increase threat perceptions, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.

  • Polish President Andrzej Duda met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Whereas most EU leaders refrained from traveling to China for the Olympics, citing the human rights violations or COVID-19 concerns, Polish President Andrzej Duda eagerly attended the games. Duda was thus one of twenty-two leaders who attended the opening ceremony, arriving from largely authoritarian or non-democratic regimes. Prior to the visit, Duda’s office emphasized the importance of providing a “European perspective on the situation” to the Chinese side regarding the tensions on the border between Russia and Ukraine. According to the official statement following their meeting, Xi Jinping pointed out that the “China-Poland friendship can stand the test of the ever-changing international situation” and expressed “China’s readiness to take an active part in Poland’s endeavor to build itself into a logistic hub and to support Poland’s effort to become a key point in China-EU industrial and supply chains.” The statement, rather conspicuously, does not mention any of the security concerns Duda intended to address. What this meeting actually achieved was putting Poland under the spotlight. This, in reality, might have been one of its core motivations as Warsaw’s rapprochement with Beijing looks to be a tactical move to attract the attention of Berlin and Washington, as MapInfluenCE’s Polish analyst Alicja Bachulska thoroughly explains in her article for CHOICE.

  • Slovakia seeks pragmatic cooperation with Taiwan. In an interview for the conservative Slovak news portal, Deputy Minister of Economy Karol Galek emphasized the economic dimension of mutual relations with Taiwan, citing incoming investment from Taiwanese companies, namely Foxconn. Galek also explained the necessity of state support and establishing contacts in terms of securing microchips supplies vital for the Slovak car manufacturing industry. However, Galek explained that while Taiwan’s proclaimed intentions to outsource parts of its chip productions to Europe are appealing for Slovakia, they are a huge challenge in terms of finances, workforce, infrastructure, and energy consumption. Nevertheless, given the intricacies of the semiconductor supply chains, Slovakia may find various ways to cooperate with Taiwan, which is to be defined by a joint working group, mentioning for instance student exchanges and coordination of efforts with neighboring countries. As evident in the case of Lithuania, cooperation with Taiwan may be followed by reprisals and economic pressure from China. This may be the reason for Galek’s careful navigation regarding China and emphasis on pragmatic economic cooperation, refraining from mentioning political or value motives. Moreover, Galek also mentioned ensuring the Chinese ambassador to Slovakia regarding the economic motives of the cooperation with Taiwan and the potential to create a similar working group on economic cooperation with China.

  • Czech Cybersecurity watchdog issues 5G recommendations. Czech National Cyber and Information Security Agency (NÚKIB) and a number of other government agencies issued a joint document, providing recommendations on how to assess the “trustworthiness” of vendors of 5G technology. The recommendations mainly pertain to the supply of technology and equipment in critical infrastructure. As such, the document stresses the nontechnical aspects of 5G security, which is in line with the Prague Proposals from 2019 and also the bilateral declaration with the US from 2020. Among specific criteria for assessing vendor trustworthiness, the recommendations mention the nature of the political system of the vendor’s home country, independence of the judiciary, effective rule of law, respect towards intellectual property rights, record of upholding international law as well as friendly relations towards the Czech Republic. While the recommendations do not exclude any specific vendor, it is clear that Chinese vendors including Huawei would not meet such criteria. NÚKIB already issued a separate warning about the use of Huawei and ZTE’s equipment and technology in December 2018. The recommendations, however, are not legally binding. Targeted legislation that will create a mechanism for assessing the risk profile of suppliers remains in the works.

  • “The diplomatic boycotts and focus on human rights issues that boycotts have ignited ahead of the games are not likely to dissipate soon. Instead, it will likely hang over the games like a cloud with global broadcasts no doubt making obligatory mention of the controversy,” commented our analyst Kevin Curran for CEIAS regarding the Olympics and its potential to improve China’s image (read here).

  • “The EU has no issue forwarding a somewhat schizophrenic stance regarding China as at once a ‘rival’, ‘competitor’, and ‘partner’,” explained Kevin Curran for Euronews (read here).

  • “Although Janša’s behavior is full of controversy, it is undoubtedly sending out a very important signal,” pointed out our Slovak analyst on China for VOA (read here).

  • “Although BRI’s global impact and its assessment have been widely disputed, one of Beijing’s undeniable achievements regarding the initiative has been its ability to create a perception of China as a decisive actor with the ability to influence the international environment,” argues our Polish analyst on China Alicja Bachulska in her brief for Asia Research Centre (read here).

Make the right #SummerCHOICE and start your summer break with the #FutureCHOICE Summer School: Untangling EU-China Relations! This exciting program will gather a group of aspiring young professionals and advanced university students from around the European continent. It will take place on May 27-30, 2022, in the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage town of Kutná Hora, Czech Republic, near the capital Prague.

Spots are limited so don’t forget to apply! All information is available here.

Best regards

Filip Šebok
Project Manager of MapInfluenCE

Newsletter editor: Filip Šebok

Contributions from: Filip Šebok, Veronika Blablová

@MapInfluenCE and #MapInfluenCE








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