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The Czech government should push for key negotiations with China to be led by the EU as a whole, rather than bilateral delegations

Why is the topic relevant?

On Friday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that he and a delegation of businessmen will travel to China. Scholz’s spokesman said the trip would take place in early November. The planned delegation comes at a time when the EU is reviewing its trade relations with Beijing and Scholz’s coalition is fiercely debating whether to allow Chinese shipping giant Cosco to invest in Germany’s largest port in Hamburg in the north of the country.

Why is the current situation a risk for the Czech Republic?

Brussels is changing its mind on economic cooperation with the PRC after the war in Ukraine revealed how foolish it is to rely on ties with Putin’s Russia for energy. Moreover, Scholz’s visit is to take place just months after he made a trip to Japan, where he stressed the need for European companies to diversify so that they are less dependent on China. The planned visit to Beijing will then go directly against these initiatives. As prime minister, he is also expected to override six of his ministries to approve a controversial deal by a Chinese state shipping giant to acquire a minority stake in a port in Hamburg, where he used to be mayor. The moves have drawn sharp criticism from other German politicians and the federal security services. The German Foreign Minister, for example, has regularly spoken out against them. Scholz’s approach has also raised eyebrows in Brussels, as it runs counter to the desire to be as united as possible in negotiations with China, especially at a time of increasing tension over the Taiwan issue. The deepening of European economic ties with and dependence on the PRC is also a threat to the Czech Republic, which is closely intertwined economically with other EU Member States.

How should the Czech Republic proceed?

The Czech government should therefore influence its partners within the EU to ensure that the EU always speaks as a whole towards China in key negotiations, thus avoiding similar bilateral negotiations that weaken the EU and make it easier for the Chinese government to pursue its own economic goals. At the same time, the Czech Government should express its strong disagreement with the Scholz delegation, which weakens the EU’s position.