Politics and International Relations
Since the beginning of the 2010s the Czech Republic has made a considerable U-turn in its foreign policy towards the People’s Republic of China, heralding the new opening in bilateral relations. With the improvement of ties with Czech ruling elites, Prague was selected as the center of European operations of the powerful, at least till recently, CEFC (Zhongguo Huaxin) conglomerate. The nominally private company, which attributed its operations not only to economic benefits but also as intended for strengthening friendly relationship between the two countries under “Belt and Road”, went on a buying spree in the Czech Republic and employed former Czech politicians and officials, including former minister of defense Jaroslav Tvrdik. After the detention of its boss Ye Jianming in February 2018, CEFC was eventually taken over by the state-owned financial giant CITIC ergo falling under the direct control of the PRC. What is more, President Miloš Zeman, who, together with the Social Democratic party, is the architect and political endorser of the Czech Republic opening to the PRC (and to CEFC), maintains the missing Mr. Ye as his “economic adviser”.
This experience corresponds with the different types of targeting strategies towards audiences of the developed and developing countries (Shi Anbin, 2017) as in Chinese perception Central and Eastern Europe falls into the latter category (Xi Jinping, 2015). Thus the findings demonstrate how China succeeded in strengthening regional clout in Europe i.e. within Czech political establishment, despite the fact that the citizens of Czech Republic have the most negative view about China among all European Union states.