China’s economic influence in central Europe might be overstated, Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib said yesterday in Taipei, adding that Chinese investments have had a limited effect on the Czech Republic’s GDP.
Hrib is part of an 89-member delegation led by Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil that ended their six-day visit to Taiwan yesterday.
At a news conference coordinated by Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安), Hrib said it was his second time officially visiting Taiwan, adding that he regretted that the trip had not been possible during the tenure of former Czech Senate president Jaroslav Kubera, who passed away in January.
Prague and the Taipei City Government in January signed a sister-city agreement, to boost exchanges in areas such as smart city development, environmentally friendly public transportation and sustainability, Hrib said at the event at the Shangri-La Hotel.
Regarding Beijing’s “one China” principle, Hrib said that the Czech Republic instead endorses the “one China” policy, which is more flexible and allows for visits to Taiwan.
While China between 2013 and 2015 made many promises to invest in the Czech Republic, only part of them were fulfilled, primarily through company acquisitions, which did not create new jobs or promote technological transfers, he said.
Asked if the delegation is worried about possible economic retaliation from Beijing, Hrib said China’s investments have only affected about 1 percent of the country’s GDP.
China only represents 0.42 percent of all foreign investments in the Czech Republic, he said, adding that the perception of Chinese investment in central Europe might be overestimated.
Asked if he would make the same statement as Vystrcil, who said “I am Taiwanese” at the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday, Hrib said: “I am a Taipei citizen.”
He was awarded honorary citizenship of Taipei last year.
Hrib also announced two major cultural exchanges at the event.
More than 250 works by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha are to be displayed at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei in the summer next year, including about 50 original drawings never before displayed, he said.
From Oct. 8 to Oct. 10 next year, the Prague Philharmonia would perform in Kaohsiung, Taichung and Taipei, he added.
Hrib also reiterated his support for China Airlines to schedule flights between Prague and Taipei after the COVID-19 pandemic abates.
Regarding China Airlines’ name and whether it should be changed to reflect that it is a Taiwanese company, Hrib said that it depends on the carrier, but he is willing to tell all Prague citizens that China Airlines is from Taiwan.
In a meeting with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) later yesterday, Hrib thanked Ko for generously sharing information about the city’s COVID-19 prevention measures and sending two pangolins to Prague Zoo as part of an animal exchange agreement between the cities.
City-to-city exchanges should remain free from political rhetoric, and focus on mutual respect and benefits, like the Taipei-Prague relationship, Hrib said.
The two sides plan to engage in more exchanges on city management, specifically the digitization of schools, Ko said.
Ko represented the city government in donating 100,800 masks to Prague to help it combat the pandemic.
Additional reporting by CNA
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