On Chinese New Year, Czech president wishes his 'friend' Xi Jinping good luck

Czech-Chinese relations are tense, but Czech President Zeman sent a message emphasizing alliance with Beijing.

William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 01.02.2022 11:54:00 (updated on 01.02.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Relations between the Czech Republic and China have fallen to a new low with the government’s decision to join western allies in boycotting the Beijing Winter Olympics. The Czech Republic has in recent years taken an increasingly stern stance towards Chinese human rights abuses, political repression, and attempts to deny the sovereignty of disputed areas such as Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Yet Czech President Miloš Zeman has long sought to promote Chinese relations despite criticism. For Chinese New Year, which fell yesterday, Zeman sent a video message to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping emphasizing the similarities between the countries.

“Dear Chinese friends, the New Year is celebrated in the Czech Republic on a different date than in the People’s Republic of China, but these dates are not too far apart. Similarly the Czech and Chinese Republics are not far apart, neither in a geographical sense, nor in the sense of being prosperous countries than can rely on a rich cultural heritage,” Zeman said in the message.

Perhaps troublingly for the Czech Republic’s western allies, Zeman noted that in some areas China “has already overtaken the United States and has become a major technological superpower.”

It’s unclear why Zeman chose to emphasize the sense of competition between the U.S.A. and China on the global stage. He also steered clear of mentioning the human rights abuses which have led to the boycott of the coming Winter Olympics.

Last week a protest movement in Prague paraded a naked statue of Xi Jinping outside the Chinese embassy in Prague to demonstrate against the oppression of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province of northwest China.

Protests outside the Chinese embassy by the Kaputin group / photo via Facebook, Václav Bozděch
Protests outside the Chinese embassy by the Kaputin group / photo via Facebook, Václav Bozděch

Relations between the Czech Republic and China have also become strained due to the Czech Republic’s welcoming of closer trade and political relations with Taiwan, which China does not believe should exist as an independent state.

“On the occasion of Chinese New Year, let me wish my Chinese friends a lot of good luck, and good luck to the Chinese President. Xiexie,” said Zeman, closing his greeting with a common Chinese expression of thanks.

The date of the Chinese New Year is variable, falling on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Each year is associated with a particular animal based on a regular cycle, with one of five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) added to the animal to provide the particular character of the year.

China is now entering the Year of the Water Tiger, which, according to ancient mythology, means a year of self-esteem, humility, attention and learning.

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