Skip to main content

Zdeněk RodUniversity of West Bohemia in Pilsen

Zdeněk Rod is a research fellow and PhD candidate at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, Department of Politics and International Relations. He is also CEO & Co-Founder of Center for Security Consulting in Prague, a fellow at the International Republican Institute within the Transatlantic Security Initiative, a research fellow at the German policy think-tank EuropaNova Germany and a research and teaching fellow at Ambis University. He focuses on security studies problematique. His PhD thesis focuses on implementing security-development nexus approaches in a post-conflict environment. (LinkedIn, ResearchGate, ORCID)

This contribution is part of the book “The Dragon at the Gates of Europe: Chinese presence in the Balkans and Central-Eastern Europe” (more info here) and has been selected for open access publication on Blue Europe website for a wider reach. Citation:

Rod, Zdeněk, The Chinese Influence in Visegrad Countries, in: Andrea Bogoni and Brian F. G. Fabrègue, eds., The Dragon at the Gates of Europe: Chinese Presence in the Balkans and Central-Eastern Europe, Blue Europe, Dec 2023: pp. 271-296. ISBN: 979-8989739806.

Introduction

The situation in Ukraine, the great power competition between the US and China and the EU’s awareness of being too dependent on China have logically impacted Visegrad countries. In some countries, such as Czechia or Poland, relations with China had been slowly deteriorating. The global tensions and war in a neighbouring country facilitated slow and continuous deflection from China. For instance, the Czech Foreign Minister told POLITICO that he sees no future in CEE cooperation with Bejing in the 14+1 format established by China in 2012 (Lau 2023). However, all four countries do rely on the US security guarantee, which the US side has sought for a long time to deflect Visegrad countries from China – not all Visegrad countries share one common vision towards China.

Conversely, we see relatively hawkish countries such as Poland or Czechia when it comes to China (Bergsen–Šniukaite 2022). The Czech government and the president have vowed Czech-Taiwanese relations over the Chinese ones. However, hawkish does not mean they are preparing to leave the 14+1 format. There are no signs of such action (Kaczynski 2022). Conversely, Hungary and its prime minister, Victor Orban, still keep relatively close ties with Beijing. Some even call the Orban–China relationship symbiotic (Brinza, 2023).

One has to go back in time to present the whole story of Visegrad-China relations. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, there were almost no Chinese trails in Visegrad countries in the 1990s – although we would find some shred of signs during the Visegrad countries Communist era. China had to establish its presence from scratch. The situation started slowly changing after 2000. Since then, China has penetrated many countries, including the Visegrad ones, through its ambitious business initiatives, increased diplomatic exchange, Confucius institutes, China’s government scholarships or sponsorship of various events (Karásková and Bachulka eds. 2020, 7, 13–14). However, as Cabada and Waisova (2022, 153) point out in their research, “Despite the similar historical and political developments, territorial proximity and similarities mentioned above, Beijing has made use of different measures respecting individual attributes of CE countries”. That resulted in a situation where China deals with Visegrad countries differently, mainly according to the given country’s political and economic conditions and power constellations (ibid.; Brattberg and Le Corre 2021). The first significant step to deepen ties between Visegrad countries and China came in 2012 when all four countries joined the economic 17+1 format (today 14+1 since the Baltic states withdrew after 2021) (Przychodniak 2019). This format, nevertheless, did not bring the expected strategic investments China promised. Today, the 14+1 format is in a deep crisis due to most countries’ Atlantistic turn to the US (Szczudlik 2022). Some argue that the Chinese attempts to approach Visegrad countries effectively failed due to misperceptions stemming from different economic, cultural, historical and geographical differences within the region (Lucas 2022). Others provide different reasoning: the China-Visegrad trade balance was not reached. Regarding export, on the one hand, V4 states have become more dependent on Chinese value added in all analysed sectors, especially in: the manufacture of computers, electronic and optical products and electrical equipment. On the other side, the V4 states were not so significant for gross Chinese exports (see more in Cieślik 2019).

Given the reasons mentioned above, the chapter aims to holistically assess the Chinese influence (political, economic, cultural) in all Visegrad countries – Czechia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – as well as the relations between Visegrad countries and China. Each country is elaborated in a specific part, which provides the reader with Chinese influence activities in Visegrad counties and the latest and future expected developments and trends between China and the Visegrad country.

The chapter explored how the relations between China and the Visegrad Group countries (Poland, Czechia, Hungary, and Slovakia) have evolved over the years. In Poland, the relationship gained momentum after Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004, resulting in various bilateral agreements and partnerships. However, disappointments with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and limited access to the Chinese market tempered the cooperation. Poland also maintained its strong security partnership with the US, leading to cautious approaches to Chinese 5G technology and investments. Czechia, initially sceptical due to historical ties with dissident voices, later embraced economic cooperation with China in the 2010s. While there were promises of significant Chinese investments, they didn’t materialize as expected. The Czech government adopted a more balanced approach under President Petr Pavel, reaching out to Taiwan, which has caused tensions with China. Hungary pursued strong economic ties with China, focusing on infrastructure, academia, and technology partnerships. Hungary’s pragmatic approach defied EU norms regarding China. While there were expectations of substantial Chinese investments, the actual flow remained low. The Hungarian government has maintained ties with both China and the US, emphasizing traditional and conservative values. Slovakia’s relations with China developed more slowly, with a change in focus after the 2009 visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao. The country has not seen significant Chinese investments, and public perception of China remains negative. Slovakia faces challenges in ensuring political stability and determining the future of its relations with China. Overall, the Visegrad Group countries have divergent approaches to China. While Hungary has embraced closer ties, others are cautious due to concerns about security, economic dependency, and the need for diversification. The Sino-Visegrad relationship will likely continue evolving in the context of global geopolitics and economic interests.

Poland

Relations between China and Poland date back to 1949. Nevertheless, the relations were marginal, and Poland stayed out of the Chinese scope until the 2000s. However, China sparked its interest in developing other relations after the Polish accession to the EU in 2004. Still, in 2004, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Warsaw to explore potential cooperation opportunities. Since 2004, many things between both countries happened, such as concluding several bilateral agreements concerning, for instance, the establishment of the Confucius Institute (there are six Confucius Institutes in Poland, and several universities have developed a research partnership with China (Reuters 2021), direct flights from China, approved destination status, membership in 17+1 Framework, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) etc. Furthermore, in 2015, a Poland-China intergovernmental committee was established (Cabada and Waisova 2022, 161, 166). Further impetus came after the 2008 financial economic crisis when Poland realized it had ensured economic diversification. And China seemed to be an interesting country in the Polish economic portfolio (Bachulska 2022, 33).

Furthermore, a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement between the two countries was concluded in 2016. Based on the myriad of agreements, China perceived Poland as one of the strategic partners in the CEE, which was later confirmed by Xi Jinping’s visit to Warsaw in 2016 and the organization of the International Sil Road Forum in Warsaw. Besides, the main proponents of Sino-Polish relations were Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau and Prime Minister Andrzej Duda (Cabada and Waisova 2022, 161, 166; Kobierski 2022, 8–10). Duda especially mentioned “that Poland will become a gateway to Europe for China, not only in symbolic terms but primarily in actual economic terms’ (Duda, according to Prezydent.pl, 2016).

If we zoom in on the period after 2016, it appears that in comparison with pre-2016 years, the cooperation slowed down. The reason beyond the weaker cooperation is a disappointment with the lack of significant progress in the Belt and Road Initiative, the 17+1 format, and limited access to the Chinese market for Polish manufacturers. Another reason was Trump’s hawkish foreign policy towards China, which logically influenced Polish perception since Poland considers the US as a critical security partner (Kobierski 2022, 8). Despite the US’s negative perception of China, Poland let Chinese companies bid on infrastructure projects. Probably the biggest Chinese infrastructure interest was when, in 2020, China’s Stecol bid over constructing the A2 motorway between Mińsk Mazowiecki – Siedlce worth approx. 120 billion EUR succeeded (wgospodarce 2020). Another reason was that China sees the Polish main enemy, Russia, as a strategic partner in global affairs. Hence, the Sino-Polish cooperation has mainly economic rather than ideological clout. If we look into the economic dimension, it can be argued that China is the biggest trade partner of Poland in Asia, and Poland is one of the largest trade partners of China in Europe. More than 90 percent of Sino-Europe freight trains pass Poland (mainly the port of Gdansk). Even though the economic collaboration seems interesting, Poland has experienced a trade deficit since China exports way more to Poland than Poland to China (Cabada and Waisova 2022, 161–162).

As mentioned above, the US-Polish partnership remains a top priority for Polish foreign policy. This resulted in a situation when, in 2019, Poland joined the club, refusing Chinese 5G technologies in its critical infrastructure. Poland also signed an agreement to cooperate on 5G technology. Polish attitude was later legislatively treated when the Polish government accepted the so-called National Cybersecurity Act in 2020, which effectively prevents the participation of Chinese firms in developing the 5G network in Poland (Sarek 2020; Kobierski 2020, 9). Change in public perception could have also been triggered by an event from 2019 when a Chinese national and a Huawei employee were arrested in Warsaw in January 2019 on spying allegations; Beijing did not react with hostage diplomacy as it had with Canada (Bachulska 2022).

Furthermore, Sino-Polish relations experienced another shift in the past years – Polish society had begun seeing China negatively compared to the previous years when Poles had high expectations stemming from fruitful mutual economic cooperation. However, as China did not bring so many investment opportunities as thought based on previous agreements, 42 percent of Poles perceive China neutrally or negatively. Another reason beyond the perception change is the Chinese rapprochement with Russia. As mentioned elsewhere in the text, Polish society has also begun critically assessing the increasing Chinese presence in Polish universities or Chinese activities in Confucius institutes (Bachulska 2022; Kobierski 2022, 10; Cabada and Waisova 2022, 162–163).

Zooming in on the Taiwan-Polish relations, although Poland holds the one-China principle, Poland does not exclude Taiwan from its Foreign Policy. For instance, during the Covid-19 period, Poland donated 400 thousand vaccines to Taiwan. Economic and trade relations between Poland and Taiwan are developing dynamically. Taiwan is the seventh largest Polish trading partner in Asia. Such a Polish move does not leave China calm (Polish Office in Taipei, 2023). Warsaw is primarily looking into Taipei for more economic opportunities, given the Chinese unfinished business initiatives promised in the past.

To sum up, Sino-Polish relations have experienced turbulent changes over the years. Despite high-level political meetings between both countries, significant Chinese investments have yet to appear in Poland (Kobierski 2022, 10). Despite many obstacles, Poland is still interested in deeper Sino-Polish economic cooperation. However, it will be interesting to observe how Poland will react to Sino-Russian friendship in the future, especially during the war in Ukraine, where Poland perceives Russia as the ultimate security threat.

Czechia

Czechia is another interesting case of Chinese influence. Similarly, like Poland, Czechia started exploring possible relations and economic opportunities in the 1990s, although Czech dissident voices expressed their concerns about having closer ties with another communist regime. For instance, the first Czech president, Václav Havel, promoted human rights and democratic values around the World and met several times with Dalai-lama. Havel’s perception logically opposed having closer ties with China. However, if we move to the 2010s, Czechia followed the “one-China-policy”, concluded several bilateral agreements between both countries and became a member of the 16+1 (since 2019, 17+1) Framework, a key platform for promoting the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) driven by China (Cabada and Waisova 2022, 154). Despite all those previously mentioned events, Czechia has also developed in recent years an exceptional relation with Taiwan (see elaborated below), which irritates Chinese communist politburo. Nevertheless, to fully comprehend the Sino-Czech relationship, we must return to 2013 when former president Miloš Zeman took over the presidential office and turned the helm towards China.

In 2014, former president Zeman announced the so-called “restart” of the Czech policy on China, which was motivated chiefly by economic considerations (Šebok and Karásková 2022, 12). Moreover, Zeman’s move was also accompanied by social-democratic Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek. Regarding former president Zeman, he visited China several times, attended by numerous business delegations, and many times announced that China would heavily invest (approx. 10 billion EUR) into Czechia. The 2016 Xi Jinping historic visit should have also supported the Chinese investment plan. However, Czechia noted just a fraction of Chinese investments (Klímová and Viktora 2023). Zeman’s desire to deepen Sino-Czech also resulted in appointing Ye Jianming, CEFC China Energy founder, as his advisor in 2017. In 2019, however, “CEFC got into financial problems, the CEFC chairman Ye Jianming disappeared’ in China, and the company’s assets in the Czech Republic were transferred to the Chinese state investment vehicle CITIC” (Turcsányi 2020, 69). In terms of business, Zeman helped the late billionaire Peter Kellner and his PPF enterprise to open a credit business run via a Home Credit firm (Břeštan 2017). However, due to Chinese Covid-19 restrictions and the unpredictability of doing business in China, PPF has considered leaving the Chinese market (Seznam zprávy 2023).

The Czech presidential discourse has tremendously changed, with Petr Pavel taking over the office at the beginning of 2023. President Pavel showed a clear, assertive stance toward China when one of his first presidential calls was directed to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. President Pavel mainly discussed democratic values, human rights and the necessity to deepen Czech-Taiwanesee ties. This call logically caused considerable negative reactions in Beijing (Echo 24, 2023). Notwithstanding, Czech turnover to Taiwan had already started before Petr Pavel became president. For instance, the head of the Senate, Miloš Vystrčil the Mayor of Prague, Zdeněk Hřib, accompanied by a business delegation, visited Taiwan in 2020. During that visit, Vystrčil mentioned during his official speech, “I am Taiwanese,” – analogically with Keneddy’s speech in Berlin “Ich bin ein Berliner”. Due to the visit, Bejing threatened that this visit could negatively impact Sino-Czech ties (Aktualne 2020). A similar visit was conducted in the spring of 2023 when the head of the Chamber of Deputies, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, accompanied by numerous political, business and academic delegations, visited Taiwan to deepen ties between both countries (Fajtová 2023).

If we zoom in on the 5G discussion, Czechia follows Polish suit. Although any formal act abolishing Czech 5G components in the critical infrastructure has not been accepted yet, the Czech institutions generally respect the recommendation of the Czech security and intelligence community not to buy 5G components from China (Spurný 2022).

Besides negligible Chinese business activities in Czechia, it is interesting to zoom in on the Sino-Czech academia cooperation. In 2019, Charles University faced a scandal when it was found that the Chinese embassy paid the university employees’ company. According to the findings, the Chinese embassy reimbursed over a million crowns (approximately 40 thousand EUR). And that is for conferences and teaching at the university. The academics, who are co-owners of the company, subsequently lost their jobs (Valášek 2019).

When it comes to export and import in 2022, according to the Czech Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic (SPCR 2023), the volume of Czech exports to China fell by less than 3percent compared to 2021, with Taiwan growing by almost 27 percent. However, in terms of volume, Czech exporters export six times more goods to China than Taiwan. Both China and Taiwan are important business partners for Czech companies. Both countries are also significant investors in the Czech Republic. Recently, the volume of Taiwanese investment has been greater than that of China. On the other hand, Czech exports to China reached a volume of almost CZK 44 billion in 2022, and Czech companies exported goods worth almost CZK 7 billion to Taiwan.

Last but not least, reflecting the Czech public perception of China in the public discourse is vital. The public perception has considerably changed, mainly due to failed Chinese investment promises. Based on a recent survey (see Turcsányi and Sedlákova eds 2020), Czech society appears to be relatively hawkish regarding China. The Czech respondents have a predominantly negative view of China (56 percent negative, 30 percent positive, and the rest neutral). The first association of the Czech public related to China is communism – making the Czech Republic the only one among the 13 surveyed countries with this topic at the top and one of only a few not having COVID-19 in the first place.

The critical question is which character will future Sino-Czech relations have. So far, we have not heard much from Petr Fiala’s government. The government’s program statement from 2020 envisages a review of relations with China (PSP 2023). No concrete steps, however, have been formulated by the Czech government yet. So far, the Czech government is clearly seeking to strengthen business ties with Taiwan. Future relations with China remain blurred.

Hungary

The Sino-Hungarian relationship among the Visegrad countries is probably the most friendly one. Moreover, based on the author’s experience, it is common to quickly encounter Chinese TV CGTN or Chinese newspapers China Daily in the Budapest hotel reception. As the chapter shows, Hungary has a distinct approach to infrastructure and academic cooperation or Chinese 5G technologies discussion. Hungary made the most significant effort to cultivate special relations with China among the Visegrad countries. The reason why is simple. Hungary had significant economic expectations from this cooperation which would boost the Hungarian economy. Hence, Budapest firmly focused on economic incentives. For instance, Budapest refused to share the critical EU attitude toward the BRI (Cabada and Waisova 2022, 158). To understand the whole story, however, the chapter will zoom in on the Sino-Hungarian development from 2004, when Hungary started considerably cooperating with China.

During the Hungarian accession to the EU, Hungary signed a joint statement on friendly partnership and cooperation. After the 2008 economic crisis, Hungary tried to win Chinese investments to deal with its economic problem, energy dependence on Russia and its land-locked position (ibid, 158). In 2010, the Hungarian government introduced the ‘Opening to the East’ policy, which was supposed to attract capital from China and Central Asia to counterbalance that from the EU. In 2011, Hungary joined the 16+1 format. Since the early 2010s, Hungary and China have exchanged between themselves dozens of diplomatic visits, which resulted in several joint initiatives discussed in the following lines (Paszak 2021).

For instance, several infrastructure projects were developed, such as modernising the Budapest- Belgrade railway line (Káncz 2020). In 2013, the government established the office of the Government Commissioner for Hungarian-Chinese Bilateral Relations to deepen mutual relations. Budapest has also become an exciting place for the Chinese banking sector and technology companies such as Huawei, which located its European supply and logistics centre in Hungary (Cabada and Waisova 2022, 159). Cooperation has also stretched to the academic domain. Concretely, the campus of Chinese Fudan University in Budapest should be opened by 2024 and should be able to educate about 6 thousand students (Euronews 2021).

The Sino-Hungarian special relationship showed its entire business during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Sinopharm vaccines were included in the Hungarian national vaccination strategy despite the lack of approval from the European Medicines Agency. Due to the contract with Sinopharm, the authorities in Budapest have vaccinated 2.5 million citizens with at least one dose, achieving the fourth-highest vaccination rate in Europe (Kobierski 2022, 4).

And what about the promised investments? According to (Matura 2018), the flow of Chinese investment is still low. More than a dozen joint projects have failed, and many others have been delayed. Hungary is another case where Chinese investment promises did not materialize to the extent expected during the early stages of Sino-Hungarian cooperation. Fudan is a major organization of research and higher education in China. According to the QS Asia University Rankings 2021, Fudan is the third-best university in China and the sixth in Asia (Mikecz 2022, 6).

Furthermore, when discussing China, the view of the US shall not be excluded. Why? Orban’s Fidesz political party has several times pledged robust relations with US Republican party. According to Orban and Fidesz, Republicans in the US share analogical traditional and conservative values. Experts expected that Trump being hawkish toward China might change Orban’s attitude. Nothing like that happened during Trump’s presidency at the end. Orban plays a long-term balancing diplomacy game (Végh 2022). That means, in practice, that Obran tries to have opened channels to Washington, Brussels, Beijing and Moscow simultaneously. Regarding the EU, Hungary regularly backs China in the Council of the EU. Hungary has blocked multiple EU statements condemning China’s Hong Kong police. Furthermore, Fidesz members of the EU parliament voted against the resolution freezing the ratification of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement (CAI) in the European Parliament (Kobierski 2022, 5).

5G technologies discussion in Hungary is also unique. According to Kobierski (2022, 3), in 2022, Hungarian Innovation and Technology Minister Laszlo Palkovics and CEO of Huawei Technologies Hungary Colin Cai signed a letter of intent for a long-term collaboration that included the digital transformation of education, development of 5G and wired networks, and smart city solutions. Despite what government officials claimed, the world’s biggest 5G suppliers teamed up with other telecoms businesses.

And what about Hungarian public opinion on China? If we zoom in on the recent statistics (Dubravčíková and Turcsányi Q. eds. 2020, 2), we find rather surprising findings. Despite the Hungarian government’s inclination to China, it appears that the general public does not share the government’s perception. “Overall, the Hungarian public leans towards a negative view of China: 49 percent of respondents see China negatively, 25 percent positively, with the remaining 26 percent holding neutral views. Whereas 55 percent of the Hungarian population declared no change in its view on China in the last three years, approximately 31 percent of the respondents proclaimed their views on China worsened, and only 14 percent noted improvement. China appears to be one of the most negatively perceived countries in Hungary among those surveyed, ranking fourth only behind North Korea, Israel, and Russia.” (ibid, 2).

Possible predictions in the Sino-Hungarian relationship are hard to predict. Even though China did not deliver massive investment opportunities as promised in the early 2010s, Hungary appears to maintain its relationship with China. Hungary will still seek China as leverage to balance the potential blocked flow of money from the EU structural funds, which the EU Commission has been discussing for a while due to Hungarian problems with the rule of law. Hungary follows a pragmatic foreign policy approach, primarily guided by consequentialist considerations. To conclude, although the Sino-Hungarian special relationship is not so special in practice (investments, infrastructure projects etc), Hungary can be undoubtedly considered as the pro-Chinese oriented state in the Visegrad grouping.

Slovakia

Slovakia is similar to Polish or Czech relations with China. Slovakia began exploring possible Chinese incentives in the early 2000s. However, it was relatively difficult for Slovaks to get to some serious discussions with the Chinese due to its peripherical business situation in the 2000s since, at that time, Slovakia needed to catch up on the list of EU and US priorities. The first visible change appeared in 2009 when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Bratislava for the first time. Even though the cooperation evolved after 2009 rather slowly. For instance, in 2016, Bratislava installed for the first time an ambassador in Beijing and several ‘Slovak houses’ in various parts of China were opened and only several bilateral agreements were concluded (Cabada and Waisova 2022, 164).

The main political protagonists of Sino-Slovakian cooperation were Robert Fico and his populist-left Smer-SD party. Smer-SD teamed up with Beijing economically and considerably overlooked potential implications for state security or policies. When a new party came to power in 2020, the Sino-Slovakian relationship was revisited. A clear focus on the Euro-Atlantic area supplemented blurred opinions on China. The new paradigm was also reflected in Slovakia’s security strategy, which critically assesses Chinese presence in Slovakia and in world affairs. The Slovak intelligence community did not keep a blind eye on China either and, in 2022, warned China sought to penetrate Slovakian critical infrastructure (Kobierski 2022, 5–6). Notwithstanding, the Chinese influence in Slovak politics is rather low and sporadic. That can also be explained by the absence of any political party with a clear position on China. Additionally, Slovakia is the only CEE country without a direct flight to China, and both countries even did not sign a MoU or an agreement on a strategic partnership. There are also a few Chinese manufacturing companies. Some potential bigger businesses in the technological dimension are yet to be clarified. However, interestingly, Slovakia is also the object of Chinese soft power and its cultural foreign policy instruments (Cabada and Waisova 2022, 164). To give an example, China has established three Confucius Institutes in Slovakia (Šimalčík 2020). Moreover, the Chinese CEFC expressed interest in buying some Slovak media (TV Markíza). (Cabada and Waisova 2022, 164).

If we zoom in on Slovak’s perception of China, then we find out it is rather negative. “70 percent of respondents in Slovakia see China negatively. Some 55 percent of respondents considered trade cooperation favourably, while just 50 percent spoke favourably of Chinese investments and the Beijing-led Belt and Road Initiative. Just 30 percent of people in Slovakia were in favour of the Chinese-assisted 5G rollout while 25 percent of respondents said China’s reputation had suffered in the last three years.” (ibid, 6). The different statistical results, however, emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic, during which China provided healthcare support to Slovakia. This Chinese move resulted in a situation when 67 percent of respondents in Slovakia said China offered the biggest aid to the country to tackle the outbreak (ibid, 6).

The future of Sino-Slovak relations remains to be answered. Slovakia must first ensure political stability to discuss the future of mutual relations. In May 2023, the Slovak government resigned, and the Slovak president Zuzana Čaputová installed an interim government. The future of Sino-Slovak relations might get narrowed after the Slovak parliamentary elections, which will take place in September 2023. If populist parties had won the elections, it would have been expected that the new government would seek to deepen economic ties with China pragmatically. Nevertheless, it will also be interesting to observe whether China will somehow seek to intervene in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Conclusion

The analysis showed that China’s impact on the Visegrad region has been relatively limited. We cannot observe any serious economic, political or cultural incentives. However, that does not mean that the current status quo cannot change in the future. The analysis revealed that Visegrad countries are divided into two camps for China. The first camp includes Poland, Czechia and Slovakia, which have moderate relations with China. The latter camp contains Hungary, the most pro-China-oriented country in the Visegrad group.

Nevertheless, except for Hungary, it can be assumed that the remaining countries will be very careful regarding China. All countries dramatically reduced their ties with Russia. They consider Russia a despotic and authoritarian regime no one can rely on in the future. Instead, they argue it is vital to diversify political and economic ties with democratic countries. At the dawn of the war in Ukraine, Visegrad countries acknowledged that due to the Chinese authoritarian nature, China could do rapid business changes without consulting them first. This situation particularly emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic when China was in lockdown, and Chinese European exports were halted. Given that, Visegrad countries realized that it is strategically vital to have diversified imports and exports. Another reason is that all Visegrad countries except Hungary generally consider China as a potential security risk. The Visegrad countries will probably generally tend to elaborate ties with China in non-disputed areas out of the critical infrastructure dimension. They all realize that given the Chinese position in world affairs, the heavy reliance on Chinese exports has to be considerably reduced after some time. But they also know they can decide to what extent their country will be dependent on China. For instance, regarding the Czech position, it can be expected that Czechia, due to its firm reliance on the German economy dependent on Chinese manufacturing, will assess Sino-Czech relations according to Germany’s position to some extent. That means that all countries might also be deciding on China within the given regional geopolitical context, if not international, if we consider the Sino-US geopolitical rivalry. Observing how the Sino-Visegrad group relation evolves during the 2020s will be interesting.

Bibliography

Aktualne. “Vystrčil přistál na Tchaj-wanu. Čínská ambasáda reaguje ostrým prohlášením”. August 30, 2020, https://zpravy.aktualne.cz/domaci/milos-vystrcil-odletel-na-navstevu-tchaj-wanu-ceka-ho-prijet/r~f6fb9c34ea0111eaa6f6ac1f6b220ee8/

Bachulska, Alicja. “When Beijing met Warsaw: A Story of continuing courtship”. In: Karásková, Ivana, and Bachulska, Alicja eds. China’s Sticks and Carrots in Central Europe: The Logic and Power of Chinese Influence. Praha: Mapinfluence, 2020: 33–41.

Bachulska, Alicja. “Chinese Influence in Poland”. CEPA, August 2, 2022, https://cepa.org/comprehensive-reports/chinese-influence-in-poland/

Bergsen, Pepijn, and Šniukaitė, Valdonė. “Central and Eastern Europe become hawkish on China”. Chathamhouse, September 16, 2022, https://www.chathamhouse.org/2022/09/central-and-eastern-europe-become-hawkish-china

Brattberg, Erik, and Le Corre, Philippe eds. China’s Influence in Southeastern Central, and Eastern Europe Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2021.

Brinza, Adreea. “China Keeps Betting on the Wrong Politicians”. Foreign Policy, March 10, 2023, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/03/10/china-influence-diplomacy-central-eastern-europe-czech-republic/

Břešťan, Robert. “Petr Kellner s politikou v zádech. Jeho Home Credit je v Číně už třetí největší v oboru”. Hlídací Pes, March 13, 2017, https://hlidacipes.org/petr-kellner-s-politikou-v-zadech-jeho-home-credit-je-v-cine-uz-treti-nejvetsi-v-oboru/

Cieślik, Ewa. “Looking for the sectoral interdependence: evidence from the Visegrad countries and China”. Quality & Quantity 53, (2019): 2041–2062, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-019-00854-0

Dubravčíková, Klára and Turcsányi, Richard Q eds. Hungarian Public Opinion On China in the age of Covid-19. CEIAS: Bratislava, 2020.

Echo 24. “Čína se zlobí. Pavel si telefonoval s tchaj-wanskou prezidentkou”. January 30, 2023, https://www.echo24.cz/a/HBDn5/zpravy-domaci-prezident-pavel-telefonat-na-tchajwan-cchaj

Euronews. “Hungary agrees to open Chinese university campus in Budapest by 2024”. May 2, 2021, https://www.euronews.com/2021/05/02/hungary-agrees-to-open-chinese-university-campus-in-budapest-by-2024

Fajtová, Magdaléna. “Pekarová Adamová dorazila na Tchaj-wan. Doprovází ji největší česká delegace za posledních pět let”. iRozhlas, March 25, 2023, https://www.irozhlas.cz/zpravy-svet/marketa-pekarova-adamova-na-tchaj-wanu_2303252024_mfk

Kaczynski, Piotr M. “How China Lost Central Europe”. Balkaninsight, August 15, 2022, https://balkaninsight.com/2022/08/15/how-china-lost-central-europe/

Káncz, Csaba. “The New Budapest-Belgrade Railway Line: A White Elephant on the New Silk Road”. Chinaobservers, June 15, 2020, https://chinaobservers.eu/the-new-budapest-belgrade-railway-line-a-white-elephant-on-the-new-silk-road/

Karásková, Ivana, and Bachulska, Alicja eds. China’s Sticks and Carrots in Central Europe: The Logic and Power of Chinese Influence. Praha: Mapinfluence, 2020.

Kobierski, Łukasz, The Role and Influence of the People’s Republic of China on Visegrad Group Countries. Warsaw: Warsaw Institute. 2022.

Klímová, Jana and Viktora, Antonín. “Ze slibovaných 230 miliard Česko získalo jen zlomek. Čínské investice nic moc nepřinesly, říká expert”. Český Rozhlas, March 3, 2023, https://plus.rozhlas.cz/ze-slibovanych-230-miliard-cesko-ziskalo-jen-zlomek-cinske-investice-nic-moc-8945283

Lau, Stuart. “China’s club for talking to Central Europe is dead, Czechs say”. POLITICO, May 4, 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/czech-slam-china-xi-jinping-pointless-club-for-central-europe/

Lucas, Edward. “Chinese Influence in Central and Eastern Europe”. CEPA, August 2, 2022, https://cepa.org/comprehensive-reports/chinese-influence-in-central-and-eastern-europe/

Matura, Tamás. “Chines investment in Hungary: few results, great expectations”, ChinafluenCE, 2018, https://www.chinfluence.eu/chinese- investment-hungary-results-great-expectations/.

Mikecz, Daniel. “Case Study: Hungary”. In: Chen, Katty W. and Herscovitch, Benjamin eds., China’s Influence In Europe: strategies towards a resilient and united EU. Potsdam. Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. 2022.

Paszak, Paweł. “Hungary’s “Opening to the East” Hasn’t Delivered”. CEPA, March 8, 2021, https://cepa.org/article/hungarys-opening-to-the-east-hasnt-delivered/

Polish Office in Taipei. “Bilateral Relations”. 2023, https://poland.tw/web/taiwan/taiwan

PREZYDENT.PL. “President Duda hopes Poland will become China ́s getaways to Europe”, 2016, available at prezydent.pl/en/news/art,191,president-duda- hopes-poland-will-become-chinas-gateway-to-europe.html.

Przychodniak, Marcin. “Chiny a Grupa Wyszehradzka. Ewolucja stanowisk i perspektyw”. Osrodek Mysli Politycznej, 2019, https://usa-ue.pl/teksty-i-komentarze/teksty/chiny-a-grupa-wyszehradzka-ewolucja-stanowisk-i-perspektywy/

PSP. “Vztahy s Čínou v uplynulém desetiletí “, řešili poslanci a experti na konferenci projektu Sinopsis a výborů Parlamentu ČR”. February 20, 2023, https://www.psp.cz/sqw/cms.sqw?z=17101

Reuters. “Polish trial begins”, Reuters, June 1, 2021, reuters.com/world/china/polish-trial-begins-huawei-linked-china-espionage-case-2021-05-31/

Sarek, Łukasz. “5G and the Internet of Things: Chinese companies’ inroads into ‘digital Poland”. Sinopsis, January 1, 2020, https://sinopsis.cz/en/sarek-5g-iot/

Seznam zprávy. “PPF je připravená na odchod z Číny, už tam nevidí obchodní příležitosti”. March 13, 2023, https://www.seznamzpravy.cz/clanek/ekonomika-firmy-ppf-je-pripravena-na-odchod-z-ciny-uz-tam-nevidi-obchodni-prilezitosti-227712

SPCR. “Český export v roce 2022 rekordně vzrostl”. February 6, 2023, https://www.spcr.cz/pro-media/tiskove-zpravy/15868-cesky-export-v-roce-2022-rekordne-vzrostl#:~:text=Obě%20země%20jsou%20také%20v,zboží%20za%20téměř%207%20mld.

Spurný, Jaroslav. “NEKUPUJTE ČÍNSKÉ 5G TECHNOLOGIE, DOPORUČUJÍ ČESKÉ ÚŘADY”. Respekt, January 10, 2022, https://www.respekt.cz/komentare/nekupujte-cinske-5g-technologie-doporucuji-ceske-urady

Szczudlik, Justyna. “What Does China Think about Central and Eastern Europe?”. China Observers, May 19, 2022, https://chinaobservers.eu/what-does-china-think-about-central-and-eastern-europe/

Šebok, Filip and Karásková, Ivana. “Case Study: Czech Republic. In: Chen, Katty W. and Herscovitch, Benjamin eds., China’s Influence In Europe: strategies towards a resilient and united EU. Potsdam. Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. 2022.

Šimalčík, Matej. “China’s inroads into Slovak universities”. CEIAS, December 10, 2020, https://ceias.eu/chinas-inroads-into-slovak-universities/

Turcsányi, Richard Q.. “China and the Frustrated Region: Central and Eastern Europe’s Repeating Troubles with Great Powers,” CHINA REPORT 56, no. 1 (2020): 60–77. DOI: 10.1177/0009445519895626

Turcsányi, Richard Q. and Sedlákova, Renáta eds. Czech public opinion on China in the age of COVID-19. CEIAS. 2020

Valášek, Lukáš. “Karlova univerzita propustila akademiky, které platila za konference čínská ambasáda”. Aktualne, November 5, 2019, https://zpravy.aktualne.cz/domaci/karlova-univerzita-propustila-akademiky-cina/r~0e3b078affd511e9b1410cc47ab5f122/

Végh, Zsuzsanna. “Alignment or isolation: Hungary’s foreign policy after its parliamentary election”. ECFR, March 31, 2022, https://ecfr.eu/article/alignment-or-isolation-hungarys-foreign-policy-after-its-parliamentary-election/

Waisová, Šárka, and Cabada, Ladislav. “China’s Engagement in Central Europe: Words Speak Lauder than Actions,” Political Science Journal 25, no. 1 (2022): 151–176, https://doi.org/10.24040/politickevedy.2022.25.2.151-176

×