A local Czech politician tells China’s foreign minister not to “open your trap” again about his country’s relations with Taiwan.
Chinese diplomacy has taken on a sharper edge of late, with Beijing’s diplomats issuing increasingly harsh threats against countries from Australia to the United States for backing policies unpopular in Beijing.
This year, Chinese officials have threatened trade reprisals against Australia, for advocating an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, and against New Zealand, for raising concerns about China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. China—the world’s largest producer of rare earth minerals—recently threatened to halt the sale of vital rare earth products to defense giant Lockheed Martin after it secured a contrade to upgrade Patriot air defense batteries in Taiwan.
But a dispute between China and the Czech Republic over a visit late last month to Taiwan by Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil has underscored the depth of antipathy toward China’s strong-armed diplomacy. After the visit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who threatened unspecified retaliation. In response, Pavel Novotny, a local district mayor on the outskirts of Prague, fired off a scorching—if slightly unhinged—missive to the Chinese foreign minister on Monday, calling Beijing’s top diplomats “impudent, thoughtless, uncouth clowns.”
We are posting the letter—which demands an apology from the Chinese government within 24 hours—as our Document of the Week (with an English translation on the second page of the document).
The dispute between China and the Czech Republic, long in the making, got heated in January when Beijing’s envoy to Prague threatened to retaliate against Czech companies based in China if the Czech Republic’s then-Senate leader, Jaroslav Kubera, went ahead with an official visit to Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.
In March, the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called for the Chinese ambassador to be replaced, describing his threat as “unacceptable.” Kubera subsequently died, but his successor, Vystrcil, made the trip late last month with a delegation of about 90 officials, including the Prague mayor, Zdenek Hrib, a vocal critic of the Chinese government who declared Taipei a sister city to Prague in January.
Beijing immediately issued an unspecified threat, saying it would make Vystrcil “pay a heavy price for his short-sighted behavior and political opportunism.”
The feud has further complicated efforts by the Czech President Milos Zeman, a China booster, to strengthen ties with China. Zeman already cancelled a visit to Beijing in January for a summit of Central and Eastern European nations, citing Beijing’s failure to make good on promised investments. And Beijing’s favorability rating in the Czech Republic is among the lowest in Europe.
Wang faced pushback from European capitals, with the French foreign ministry, calling the threat “unacceptable” and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas telling the Chinese diplomat “threats don’t fit in here.”
But Novotny, the mayor of the Prague-Reporyje district, took it to another level.
“That was THE LAST TIME that you open your trap about the Czech Republic!” he wrote. “Now listen to me good, you Comrade Minister: The PRC will immediately apologize for the shameless threat. When I say right away I mean ASAP!
“You will not fuck with us like that!” he added. “With much feigned regards.”
Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch
Amy Mackinnon is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @ak_mack