The elected president of the Czech Republic, Petr Pavel, barely won the election and already decided to step on a minefield of international politics. This Monday (30), two days after his election, the former military man called the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen – thus risking a diplomatic spat with China even before taking office.
Most world leaders avoid public interactions with Taipei and its president out of respect for Beijing, which considers the island a rebellious province and an inalienable part of its territory. In this context, recognizing its government as autonomous means violating the “one China” policy and, therefore, the sovereignty of the Asian giant.
In fact, upon becoming aware of the call, the Chinese Foreign Ministry reiterated that it is opposed to interactions between countries with which it maintains ties and Taiwan. “Pavel openly stated during the elections that the one-China principle should be respected,” said the ministry, which at that time was still seeking confirmation of what had happened from the Czech Republic.
The issue became even more sensitive for the Xi Jinping regime last year, when a visit by Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the US House of Representatives and the highest-ranking US official to set foot on the island in 25 years, resulted in into a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Beijing.
Taiwan’s Presidency’s office said the call on Monday (30) lasted about 15 minutes and ended with Tsai, who the day before had sent congratulations to Pavel on his victory, saying he hoped to remain in contact with the Czech. This, in turn, confirmed the connection and reinforced the desire to reinforce the collaboration with the island in a post on Twitter.
The president-elect, a former military man whose campaign was marked by promises of support for Ukraine — a country that was invaded and has been at war with Russia for 11 months — takes office in early March. He replaces Milos Zeman, who has pro-Russian rhetoric and advocates closer Czech ties with China.
Although they have essentially ceremonial roles, Czech heads of state often have a say in foreign policy and are considered to be powerful opinion makers who can pressure the government and congressmen to approve or reject policies.
The Czech Republic does not maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan — only 14 nations on the globe do, most of them in Latin America and the Caribbean. Prague and Taipei have, however, grown closer as the island seeks new allies on the European continent, underlining its shared values of freedom and democracy.
In 2020, the leader of the Czech Senate visited Taiwan and declared himself Taiwanese in a speech to the island’s Parliament, evoking a speech by former US President John F. Kennedy in which he challenged communism in Berlin in 1963.
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