China’s foreign minister warned Monday that a top Czech lawmaker would “pay a heavy price” for visiting Taiwan, exposing continued tensions with Europe even as Beijing sought to push back against U.S. overtures on the continent.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Germany that Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil’s trip was a “betrayal” that made him “an enemy of 1.4 billion Chinese people.” Vystrcil is leading a 90-member delegation to Taiwan, including Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib, a Beijing critic who in January made Taipei a sister city to the Czech capital.
“China will not sit idle and tolerate the Czech Senate leader’s provocation and the anti-China forces behind him,” Wang said. “We will make them pay a heavy price for such short-sighted behavior and political speculation.”
The Czech delegation represents Taipei’s second high-profile foreign visit in recent weeks, bolstering President Tsai Ing-wen’s effort to fight an isolation campaign by Beijing. Earlier this month, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar became the most senior American official to visit Taiwan since Washington switched diplomatic ties to Beijing from Taipei in 1979.
Vystrcil told an investment forum Monday that he aimed to deepen trade ties between the two sides, and that Czech entrepreneurs wanted to make connections with Taiwanese businesses. He didn’t comment on Wang’s remarks.
“Taiwan and the Czech Republic are democratic countries with common values,” Taiwanese Economic Minister Wang Mei-hua said ahead of a meeting with Vystrcil’s group. “The Czech delegation is here for trade. We hope to deepen trade ties.”
Wang’s comments underscored the challenge Beijing faces fighting American calls for its allies in Europe to eschew cooperation with China. On Sunday, he urged European countries to embrace “strategic independence” and “play a constructive role” in easing the confrontation between China and the U.S.
The difference between the world’s two largest economies lies in “whether to advocate cooperation or a zero-sum game,” Wang said during a talk at a Paris think tank, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement. The U.S. was “standing on the wrong side of history,” he said.
Wang is advocating for China and the European Union to reach a deal on investments by the end of the year on his week-long visit to the continent, which began Tuesday and includes stops in Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, France and Germany. The trip follows a European swing by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who told the continent that China posed a greater threat than Russia.
China’s attempts to separate economic and trade discussions from differences in ideological values could face difficulties. Meeting with Wang, French President Emmanuel Macron raised concerns about China’s human rights record in dealing with pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong and ethnic Uighurs in China’s far west region of Xinjiang.
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