University of Nottingham
Taiwan Studies Programme
Date: 31 July 2020
By: Richard Q. Turcsanyi.
Perhaps in the clearest form, the Czech Republic symbolises contradictory attitudes towards Beijing and Taipei found in former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). While for part of the society Taiwan symbolises own rejection of Communist past and sympathy towards humanistic ideals, others are not willing to endanger promises of benefits (real or imaginary) of pragmatic developing relations with China.
Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has long been a particular area of contest between Beijing and Taipei. The former European Communist governments belonged among the first states formally recognising the People’s Republic of China after 1 October 1949 and moved on to develop active exchanges with the Mainland during the 1950s. The memory of this “golden era” is still visible in China-CEE relations today and is reflected in the label of “traditional friends,” which Chinese representatives like to use during their meetings with the CEE counterparts as part of the 16+1 process since 2012.
The historical legacy, however, is much more ambivalent, as highlighted by the fact that the CEE officials are rather lukewarm towards perceiving China as a “traditional friend.” Since the 1989 anti-Communist revolutions in Europe, along with successive CEE governments,’ governmental legitimacy has been built on rejecting Communism, inclusive of their pre-1989 past. The latter political arrangement has often been perceived as apparent “occupation.” Thus, from the figurative perspective of Francis Fukuyama, China and the post-Communist CEE countries have found each other on the opposite “ends of the history.”
Relations with Taiwan have been a political indicator of regional CEE development, and also China-CEE relations. The Communist governments before 1989 developed relations with their counterparts in Asia – in Beijing, Hanoi, or Pyongyang – while treating the governments in Taipei, Saigon, Seoul, or Tokyo primarily as “imperialist” adversaries. However, it is good to also keep in mind the internal struggles within the Communist bloc, which meant that most of the European Communist countries were in the Soviet camp, and their relations with China were cold during 1960s-mid-1980s. [FULL STORY]