Zeman to attend military parade on second visit to China in year

Miloš Zeman, photo: Filip Jandourek

Czech President Miloš Zeman will next week make his second visit to China in less than a year. He is the only European Union leader travelling to Beijing for commemorations of the end of WWII – and will even attend a huge military parade. For his part, Mr. Zeman highlights China’s growing economic importance and promises new business for Czech companies.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The Czech president’s official visit to China last October ended in controversy, when he flew back to Prague on a private jet hired by the owner of the PPF investment group, which does a lot of business in the country.

Again Miloš Zeman found himself in the firing line in May, when he was the only EU head of state to visit Moscow for events marking the 70th anniversary of VE Day. However, amid tensions surrounding the situation in Ukraine, he skipped a Victory Day parade on Red Square.

Now the president is planning a similar trip to Beijing for commemorations of the end of WWII in the Pacific. Once more, he will be the only EU leader there.

This time, however, he will attend a military parade. Twelve thousand People’s Liberation Army soldiers are set to take part in the show of force on Tiananmen Square next Thursday. The EU reportedly fears the display may heighten tensions with Japan and other countries in the region.

There were reports that Mr. Zeman’s plans to travel to Beijing had been frowned on in Brussels, which was hoping for a Europe-wide boycott.

This suggestion was rejected by Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, who said he had not registered a “dramatic problem” with the visit among his EU colleagues.

Mr. Zeman has banged the drum consistently for economic diplomacy since taking office in 2013.

Photo: seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Speaking on Tuesday at a conference of Czech diplomats in Prague, he said the assembled were surely aware that China would soon overtake the US as the world’s largest economy.

“I’m glad that, in agreement with the government, I will be able to take part in Beijing in the signing of several significant deals that will, I hope, launch Chinese investment expansion into the Czech Republic. And not only economic deals, but also deals in several other areas, including sports, cultural and scientific research. I appreciate the accord between the government and myself, even though the opposition has protested – like every opposition, what else is it for? – against this visit.”

While Mr. Zeman is the only Western head of state or government going to Beijing, some European states are sending their foreign ministers or other senior officials to the WWII memorial events.

The guest list also includes UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder.