Czech Chamber of Deputies Speaker Marketa Pekarova Adamova arrived in Taiwan on Saturday, leading a delegation of more than 160 people. This is the second visit to the nation by a Czech parliamentary leader after Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil’s visit in 2020, and it is the largest Czech business delegation to travel overseas in the past five years.
Together with the plan to commence direct flights between Taiwan and the Czech Republic in the middle of July, this visit shows how quickly the two countries’ relations are warming. As well as attending a bilateral economic cooperation conference, Adamova is scheduled to visit the Legislative Yuan today and deliver a speech.
Legislative Speaker You Si-kun (游錫?) welcomed Adamova’s visit in advance, saying that she would be the first-ever female speaker of a country that does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan to address the Legislative Yuan in person.
As well as having similar views on many issues, Taiwan and the Czech Republic have a strong motivation to establish all-round relations, with the Czech Republic helping Taiwan to deepen relations with Europe, and Taiwan being the Czech Republic’s springboard into the Indo-Pacific region.
On the day Adamova arrived, Honduras severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan — a decision instigated behind the scenes by China that leaves the nation with only two diplomatic partners in Central America: Guatemala and Belize.
After Honduran President Xiomara Castro was inaugurated in January last year, Taiwan and Honduras engaged in negotiations about cooperation plans.
Honduras requested a hefty US$2 billion in economic assistance from Taiwan and simultaneously asked China for US$6 billion, a Taiwanese source said.
On March 13, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) received a letter from Honduran Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduardo Enrique Reina amounting to an “ultimatum,” and increasing Honduras’ aid request to US$2.5 billion.
Without waiting for a response, Castro wrote on Twitter on March 14 that she had instructed Reina to establish diplomatic relations with China. Acting on her instructions, Reina subsequently led a delegation to China.
Taiwan believes that Honduras’ advance announcement reflects Beijing’s intentions to prolong the negative repercussions of Taiwan’s deteriorating relations with Honduras, so as to disrupt Taiwan’s political situation and offset President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) diplomatic achievement of visiting Guatemala and Belize this week, during which she is scheduled to stop in New York and Los Angeles.
Honduras said that the US$2.5 billion it asked for was not financial aid, but a “negotiated refinancing mechanism.”
However, this only goes to show that Honduras saw its diplomatic relations with Taiwan in terms of whether it would pay the requested amount.
The opportunistic way in which the Castro government linked diplomatic relations with financial aid has exposed the weak foundations of Honduras’ democracy.
Honduras also sought to take advantage of the rivalry between the US and China. Consequently, US President Joe Biden in the middle of this month sent US Special Presidential Advisor for the Americas Christopher Dodd for last-minute talks with Honduras about its impending diplomatic switch.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke up for Taiwan in a March 17 interview with news agency Agence France-Presse, in which he said that “Taiwan has a lot to offer.”
These interventions were intended to warn Honduras that it must bear the political risk of this diplomatic gamble. Beijing often does not live up to its beautiful promises, as other countries that have cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan have discovered.
Three years of COVID-19 have caused a serious decline in China’s economic performance and a decline in its financial aid to other countries. How much can be left for China to share with Honduras?
Although China has poached Taiwan’s diplomatic partners, their departure leaves more resources to allocate to remaining allies. The government refuses to compete with China in offering financial aid. Instead, it engages in normal interactions with other countries.
Taiwanese are averse to dollar diplomacy, so if the Chinese Communist Party thinks it can use Honduras to suppress Tsai’s government, it is unlikely to have the intended political effect.
Competition between the US and China is not just economic, it is also a contest between different political values.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) visited Russia last week and stood beside Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had launched a war of aggression against Ukraine. The sight of dictators joining hands portends further threats to the international order.
When people talk about “the end of globalization,” it is not only about economics and trade, but also the gulf between democratic and authoritarian values.
There is nothing to be done about Honduras, but there are many other democracies, such as Lithuania and the Czech Republic, that are well aware of the dangers of authoritarianism, and are resolute in choosing to engage with Taiwan.
Lithuania and Taiwan have set up representative offices in each other’s capitals, with the office in Vilnius named the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania. Lithuania has not changed its pro-Taiwan stance even in the face of economic coercion from China.
Similarly, the Czech Republic is engaging with increasingly close and frequent contact with Taiwan, and has been outspoken on the issue despite intimidation by China. As well as the Taiwan-friendly attitudes of Vystrcil and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Czech President Petr Pavel spoke on the telephone with Tsai on Jan. 30.
Adamova expressed high expectations of the Czech visit before her departure.
Unlike some politicians who have visited Taiwan from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with it, she set up a page on the Czech Chamber of Deputies Web site to publicize the itinerary and personnel list of the delegation to Taiwan, explaining its significance for the Czech Republic.
The two countries’ national flags are prominently displayed on the Web page. This deliberately high-profile approach shows the international community that the Czech Republic is making the right choice between democracy and authoritarianism.
Taiwan is an important trading partner of the Czech Republic, Adamova said in an interview, adding that the two sides’ friendship is based on the values of freedom, democracy and human rights, which “dictators will never understand.”
She said that this is not the first such visit, and would not be the last.
Geopolitics is changing; and the convergence of China and Russia requires greater cohesion between democratic allies.
The Czech Republic’s willingness to develop closer political and economic relations with Taiwan is a sign of the two countries’ shared awareness of authoritarian expansion. It is also a force for consolidating democracy in the world.
In contrast, Honduras’ turn toward China looks like an exit from the democratic camp. In this diplomatic arena, it is clear which country has greater substantive significance for Taiwan’s national interests.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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