Chinese PM arrives in CR to discuss economic cooperation

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, photo: CTK

The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has called it the "visit of the year". On Thursday, the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived in the Czech Republic for a two-day visit during which he is meeting Mr Jiri Paroubek as well as President Vaclav Klaus. Talks are expected to concern mainly economic topics but to also touch on the issue of human rights.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, photo: CTK
So what are the main issues in Czech-Chinese relations? A question for Rudolf Furst from the Institute of International Relations in Prague.

"Well, the current points are at first political relations. The Czech Republic is in Beijing viewed probably as a former Soviet 'gubernia' with no big political importance. That means that our bilateral relations were a little bit reserved. Especially, I believe, from the point of view of Beijing. The last state-level visit took place here in Prague in 1987. At that time the reformer first party secretary Zhao Ziyang came to Prague and no other top-level politician from the People's Republic of China has come to Prague ever since."

The Czech Republic expects Wen Jiabao's visit to result in the signing of a number of agreements that would boost economic cooperation, among them a new agreement on the protection of Czech investment in China. Among other things, trade with China is complicated by breach of patents and licences. For example the Czech minibike producer Blata Blansko has got into financial troubles because its products are being copied in China. Prime Minister Paroubek has promised to the company that he will raise this point during his talks with Wen Jiabao. Rudolf Furst again.

"This is a standard point on the bilateral agenda of China and its trading partners but in my opinion this disrespect for intellectual property is not the biggest issue in Czech-Chinese trade relations. The biggest issue is the booming trade deficit because Chinese imports are flowing here without any obstacles and on the other hand it's quite difficult to get through the protectionist barriers in China."

On midday Thursday, followers of the Falung Gong movement, that is banned in China, launched a 24-hour protest in Prague. Every year, dozens of Czech towns hoist the Tibetan flag in support of Tibetan independence. Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has visited the Czech Republic several times, a fact which has been criticised by the Chinese authorities, who have also frowned upon contacts between Czech and Taiwanese representatives. Eva Dobrovolna from the human rights watchdog Amnesty International:

"The fact that we are hosting the Chinese delegation doesn't mean that we have to let them to be the sole agenda setters. Human rights are being breached all the time in China. And if we keep silent about it we let China and the rest of the world know that we don't care."

Rudolf Furst
Human rights issues, Tibet and Taiwan are expected to be touched upon during the talks but Rudolf Furst from the Institute of International Relations says this will not make any difference.

"I believe that such difficult issues like Taiwan, Tibet and human rights are viewed by the Czech people but surprisingly it has really very little impact on our economic relations. This is a commonly believed myth here in the Czech Republic that different perceptions of politics may have some bad impact on our economic relations. According to my own research there has been no contract, no deal between the Czech and Chinese partners that would have been cancelled due to some political reasons."