Summary: This is another big show focussing on the surprisingly impactful visit by the Czech delegation, which causes waves around the world. We kick off with the practical side of the Czech delegation’s visit to Taiwan. Prague Mayor Hrib’s city diplomacy. Czech Senate President channels Kennedy and charms Taiwan. Chinese threats cause an international backlash. The aftermath of the Czech visit. Possibly the funniest diplomatic letter in history is sent. But up first, headlines.
The number of registered companies in Taiwan has increased to a record 712,000, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said Monday, citing data valid as of July.
Taiwan’s exports in August hit a single-month high of US$31.17 billion thanks to peak season sales, booming business in emerging technologies and increased stay-at-home orders related to the pandemic, the Ministry of Finance.
The country’s exports in the month rose 8.3 percent from a year earlier.
The number of furloughed workers in Taiwan fell sharply by more than 4,500 over the past seven days due mainly to the effects of the government’s business bailout program, claimed the Ministry of Labor (MOL).
Taiwan’s minimum monthly wage will be raised to NT$24,000 (US$820.06) and the minimum hourly wage to NT$160, with effect from Jan. 1, 2021, according to the Ministry of Labor.
United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) saw its share price soar to close at a two-week high on reports that Washington is looking to ban China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC, 中芯) amid an escalating US-China trade dispute.
The US and Taiwan will be holding talks later this year on supply chain coordination with an eye on tech security.
SMIC has ties to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Two members of the Control Yuan, the watchdog branch of the government, said Monday they will launch an investigation into whether government agencies are doing enough to guarantee the safety and rights of migrant caregivers in Taiwan, especially with regards to incidents that involve alleged sexual assault or harassment.
I have helped investigate, and also reported on, so many incidents that I feel confident in saying this investigation is absolutely necessary, and I hope it produces results.
The government is planning to upgrade the nation’s information security protection plan against hackers, improve the Presidential Office’s computer system and inspect the anti-wiretapping efforts at embassies and representative offices abroad.
The planned upgrades follow a hacking attack discovered in May.
The Investigation Bureau determined that Chinese hacking groups such as Blacktech and Taidoor had infiltrated the Taipei City Government and nine central government agencies, as well as four private information service providers, over the past three years to steal confidential information.
The KMT National Congress has officially passed a resolution reiterating the party’s insistence on upholding the “1992 consensus.”
The only change was to add wording to state that the consensus was formulated based on the Republic of China Constitution.
Victorious former President Ma Ying-jeou said “The ‘1992 consensus’ is a subtle and delicate way to force the Chinese side to accept the existence of the ROC,” adding that the tactic is crucial toward maintaining peace in the strait.
A significant majority of the public disagrees.
At the same party congress, a party representative said that National Palace Museum revenues should belong to the KMT, based on the idea that the KMT and ROC government brought the collection over from China.
In response, KMT Chair Johnny Chiang brushed it off, saying that was a personal opinion.
Surprisingly, in a Facebook post, Taiwan Statebuilding Party Legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) raised the possibility that at least one KMT member might have a claim on the museum’s treasures.
“If Taiwan were ever to return these treasures, it would be to the Qing emperors’ descendants of the Manchu clan Aisin Gioro, among whom the most prominent is King Pu-tsung (金溥聰),” he wrote.
King was considered Ma Ying-jeou’s closest advisor, and served as former KMT secretary-general.
The practical side of the Czech delegation’s visit to Taiwan
With so many packed shows in the last week and a half I’ve been holding off on the Czech delegation because it was an ongoing story.
They’ve now returned home, but what a trip it was.
Let’s start with the basics.
An official 89-member delegation from the Czech Republic, headed by Senate President Miloš Vystrčil, came on a six-day visit aimed at strengthening economic and cultural ties between the two countries.
Vystrčil is the second most powerful politician in the country.
Strongly pro-Taiwan Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib and political, business, scientific and cultural sectors representatives joined the delegation.
The China and Russia friendly Czech president, Milos Zeman opposed the trip.
The visit produced some practical results and deepened relations between the nations in many areas, including signing three memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Taiwanese companies to enhance cooperation.
The visit also resulted in a decision to allow Taiwan’s government-owned banks to open branches in the Czech Republic and the Taiwanese government-invested CAL to launch direct flights to Prague.
A Taiwanese government official raised the idea of jointly raising funds with the Czech Republic to support business enterprises of both countries, especially those in the startup sector.
Museum exchanges and scholarships for Czech students to study in Taiwan were also discussed.
Countless meetings across various sectors could also lead to further ties going forward, including a proposed MOU on cooperating on exploring the moon.
Vystrčil received a Congressional Diplomacy Honorary Medal from the Legislature on Tuesday, making him the first legislative head from a country with which Taiwan has no diplomatic relations to receive the honor since it was created in 2007.
President Tsai also conferred a posthumous honor on the late Czech Senate President Jaroslav Kubera in recognition of his long-term support for Taiwan.
He had originally planned this trip, but passed away earlier this year.
Vystrčil brought surprise gifts for President Tsai, decades-old photos of Tsai with a former Vice President of the Czech Senate and a personal message.
Overall, it was a pretty productive trip.
Prague Mayor Hrib’s city diplomacy
Prague Mayor Hřib engaged in some city diplomacy with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je.
Having received honorary citizenship during his last visit to Taipei, he said:
“If I would say I am a Taipei citizen, that would be not a political support message. It would be rather a description of reality.”
In a meeting with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), Hřib thanked Ko for generously sharing the city’s COVID-19 prevention measures and sending two pangolins to the Prague Zoo as part of an animal exchange agreement between the two cities.
During a press conference, Hřib confirmed that there will be an exhibition of works by renowned Czech artist Alphonse Mucha in October 2021, at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei.
There will be 200 pieces at the exhibition, 50 of which having not been exhibited in public before.
The Prague Philharmonic will also perform in Taiwan next year.
In a dig at China’s reputation, he also said “I’m really glad that Taipei City is keeping its promises.”
Czech Senate President channels Kennedy and charms Taiwan
One key highlight of the visit was Czech Senate President Vystrčil’s speech to the legislature.
During his 30-minute speech, Vystrčil emphasized the importance of legislatures in standing up for freedom and democracy.
He said that while legislative bodies in different countries have different systems, their most important role is not only to make laws but to defend democratic principles.
It is those principles that protect people and allow them to demonstrate their various points of view in a society where freedom is fully recognized and cherished by members of the public, he said.
“Functional democracy in the independent and democratic world must acknowledge that a human being and a human life has the highest, and I repeat, the highest value,” he said.
But it was his close that generated headlines around the world:
“Please let me also express in person my support to Taiwan and the ultimate value of freedom and conclude today’s speech at your Legislative Yuan in Taiwan with perhaps a more humble, but equally strong statement,” Vystrčil said, ending his remarks with “I am a Taiwanese” in Mandarin.
He was clearly invoking John F. Kennedy’s “I am a Berliner” speech.
His speech drew a standing ovation from Taiwan’s lawmakers and won the hearts of countless Taiwanese.
It even caused a stir back home in Czechia.
Czech media reported that when Vystrcil arrived home at Prague airport, his delegation was cheered by over 100 people.
Members of the crowd were seen holding signs that read “Thank You” and “We are Taiwan”.
Referencing the ‘I am Taiwanese” speech, an online store that sells T-shirts with designs related to Czech political events, recently began selling T-shirts that read “I am Taiwanese” in Czech and Hanyu Pinyin.
The demand was so high from Taiwan they are in negotiations to find a partner in Taiwan.
Chinese threats cause an international backlash
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅), on a charm tour of Europe to shore up relations issued threats, saying “anyone who challenges the one-China principle will pay a heavy price.”
This drew the sharpest comments from European powers in recent memory:
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stood up for Vystrcil, telling his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, that “threats have no place here” and that Europeans stood together “shoulder to shoulder.”
“We treat our international partners with respect and expect them to do precisely the same in return,” he said.
He was soon backed up by France, Slovenia and the Czech foreign minister, as well as by a letter signed by lawmakers from many countries.
This is a big deal.
While frustrations have been brewing between China and Europe from some time, over many issues, that it was the Czech delegation showing support for Taiwan that finally caused them to snap back shows their frustrations with China over their bullying over Taiwan.
This may lead to other delegations shedding their fear of China and visiting Taiwan.
There have already been some calls to do so from academia and in the media.
The aftermath of the Czech visit
Following the return of the delegation to Europe, Vystrcil called for follow-through on their trip and for further ties to develop.
President Tsai praised his courage and rebuked China for their response.
The China-friendly Czech Republic President Milos Zeman called the delegation a “boyish provocation”.
That prompted the Chinese Communist mouthpiece Global Times to run an article entitled “Czech President slams senate leader’s Taiwan trip, easing tensions with Chinese mainland.”
The only fallout for the Czech Republic appears to be the cancellation of a Chinese order for US$234,814 worth of pianos.
But even that backfired, as Czech tycoon Karel Komarek stepped in and paid for the cancelled order, and is donating the pianos to local schools.
In short, the trip was a success for Taiwan, the Czech Senate, the Prague mayor and something of a diplomatic disaster for China.
Possibly the funniest diplomatic letter in history is sent
The Czech trip led to what is possibly the funniest diplomatic letter sent in history.
It was sent to the Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister by a district mayor in the city of Prague.
I should emphasise here that he’s only the mayor of a district, not the mayor of the entire city.
Here is the letter, and it has been checked by a Czech buddy of mine that the translation is ok.
I should warn you, it contains some profanity.
“Addressed to: Comrade Wang, minister of foreign affairs People’s Republic China etc..
Calling for immediate apology for threats against Czech Republic.
This was the last time you opened your mouth about CR!
Your behavior has substantially crossed the lines of what is diplomatically acceptable.
You dare to threaten the senate president with ‘pay a heavy price’, you unmannered rude clowns!
Now listen to me, comrade minister.
PRC will apologize asap for the shameless threat.
And when I say asap, I mean right now!
I want to have it in 24 hours on the table of the Czech foreign minister.
Btw, he agrees with me, but has to keep his mouth shut because of a pact with the not very sane mercenary Miloš Zeman with our premier, co-conspirator Babiš.
But that doesn’t mean you will bully us like this.
Be ashamed and acknowledge that in future even a tone which would implicate threat towards representatives of our sovereign country I will make you pay a heavy price for bullying, and you won’t like it.
You will not train us from position of strength and I warn you that the reaction from our side will be same even if you had invested 14x more than our friends from Taiwan instead of 14x less.
Wake up. You will not shit on us. Do not let this to be repeated.
Send me the copy of the apology by email, so I can put it in the archives and forget your pathetic diplomatic fuck up you have just made.
Don’t piss me off.
With pretending regards.
Pavel Novotný, mayor of Prague-Řeporyje”
Image courtesy of President Tsai Ing-wen’s Facebook page