Czech President Miloš Zeman has acquired the label of Beijing’s Trojan horse. But even though he does everything to confirm it, it’s simply a poor imitation of the same accommodation that China is shown elsewhere in Europe, especially in the Mediterranean. President Xi Jinping has visited Rome and now Italy will become the first Western power and Group of 7 major industrial nations member to affiliate contractually with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, which offers mainly investments. That greatly annoys Donald Trump’s America. What does that imply?
Toadying to China isn’t the result of Zeman’s personal attributes – his post-communist orientation, his disposition or his vindictiveness toward those who want to steer the Czech Republic to the West alone. We know about those arguments from the media, but they describe only one narrow sliver of a wide range of things, like the fact that China has a share in Portugal’s energy sector, or that it has the same interest in Italy and its port of Trieste, or reports that China has found a foothold as an investor in Israel.
The Chinese company SIPG will modernize, and then manage for 25 years the port in Haifa, which is also used by the United States Sixth Fleet. When Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton came to Jerusalem in January, he was interested in this very matter more than in the peace process.
Those are details, but they create the mosaic of a new barricade. A barricade where the E.U. and Trump’s America needn’t be on opposite sides, and where even Trump’s ideological enemy, George Soros, leans in Trump’s direction, and where states find themselves having to choose sides. Some say it doesn’t matter one dime, because both sides use snooping technology. That’s true. But the U.S. – unlike China – also doesn’t use new technologies to prevent suspicious people from buying bus, train or plane tickets. As long as we still have a choice, it’s better to let the Americans snoop on us.