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Czech President Zeman Visits China, Signaling Deepening Relations Between the Two Regions

Czech President Milos Zeman will visit China on Wednesday, Apr. 24 to attend the Second Belt and Road Initiative Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing. President Zeman’s visit to China signals rising developments between the two countries and the region of Central and Eastern Europe, in light of China’s recent moves to solidify connections to the countries of the European region. Specifically, President Zeman’s trip highlights attempts to underscore and reaffirm the increasingly controversial relationship between the Chinese tech giant Huawei and its presence in Europe.

Huawei has come under rising controversy of infrastructural spying in Europe. Photo.    Source: Bloomberg

Huawei has come under rising controversy of infrastructural spying in Europe. Photo. Source: Bloomberg

Following overt efforts by the U.S. to persuade against and to halt the progression of Huawei and Chinese tech companies into Europe, including the U.S.’ own banning of Huawei infrastructure for use in the American government, President Zeman appears intent to strengthen ties with China. Despite the fact that the Czech cybersecurity agency NUKIB found Huawei technology as posing a dangerous security risk if fully incorporated in the country, a finding corroborated by the Czech counter-intelligence agency BIS, President Zeman has been refuting claims of potential Chinese risk. Through this trip to Beijing, President Zeman reportedly hopes to reassure Chinese commitment to Czechia and ascertain further business ties for the future.

The Czech relationship towards Huawei and Chinese tech lies amidst a heightened debate over China’s presence taking over the European continent, most notably as it concerns China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into the Central and Eastern European region. As the BRF summit commences, Zeman seeks overall deeper Chinese cooperation on multiple levels of political, economic, and infrastructural partnership. While President Zeman’s pushes for greater bilateral relations between the two countries may seem troublesome given the purported security concerns, not all accounts have found Huawei or Chinese entities to be sources of potential risk in Europe.

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Czech President Milos Zeman. Photo.  Source: Xinhua/ Ju Peng

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Czech President Milos Zeman. Photo. Source: Xinhua/ Ju Peng

Thus, in moving forward the prospect of more rooted ties to China seems to be increasingly likely as President Zeman pushes for business and BRI-related alliances. Whether or not Czechia’s fellow countries of Central and Eastern Europe will fully follow suit in enhancing their relations with China will be seen following a summit to be held in Prague at the beginning of May concerning the future of, “security agreements for next-generation telecoms networks,” amongst 30 countries including the U.S. Reportedly, the U.S. hopes to use the summit as an opportunity to dissuade and remind its partners of the larger security implications posed by Huawei and incorporating potentially risky infrastructure for the sake of national security preservation.