China and Central Europe – As the Left Sees It

Information on the proceedings and results of the international conference ‘China and Central Europe. Political, Economic and Geopolitical Consequences – Standpoint of the Left’, organised by the transform! europe member organisation SPED (Society for European Dialogue) with significant support from the RLS’s Prague office.

The aim behind organising the event, which was held at a session of the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) working group of the Party of the European Left (PEL) on 1st December 2018, was to give the parties of the European Left an opportunity to enter into high-level political dialogue with the Communist Party of China (CPC). The goal was to obtain information on Chinese geopolitical intentions and policies in the region of CEE. This was a follow-up to the event that we organised in Prague in March 2017, again with the support of the RLS. It featured a keynote address by H. Scholz, MEP (Die Linke).

As a matter of fact, some political parties have been involved in this dialogue for some time. There has been high-level political dialogue between the CPC and political parties from all over the world, and specifically within the format of 16+1 (cooperation from 2012 onwards between China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe at a prime ministerial level).

As a result, it was a logical step to include other political parties in this process, which have so far been standing aside, a follow-up to the visit of PEL delegation in China, led by Chairman Gysi in June 2018.

The CPC was represented by Mrs Gong Yuan, Vice Director of the Euro-Asian Department of the CPC’s International Department and First Secretary of this department. The high-level participation of this Chinese delegation was the result of extraordinary relations between the CPC and the CPBM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia). The CPBM has played a dominant role in dialogue between the CPC and the left forces in CEE for many years.

The Chinese representative’s speech demonstrated the current political position of the CPC and the Chinese state in relation to CEE. In her presentation, she provided the following:

  1. The CPC’s – altogether very positive – position towards the relations of the political parties within the PEL;
  2. An explanation of the philosophy of building a socialist society with Chinese specifications.
  3. A presentation of the Chinese cornerstones of economic and social reforms, which have marked their 40th anniversary since their conception.
  4. An outline of anticipated Chinese foreign policy towards the region of CEE, a win-win strategy and highlights of the achievements made so far in this respect.

On the Czech side, sinologists, political scientists and outstanding personalities from international business and relations delivered the speeches. To mention just some of them: M. Hrubec, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; J. Kohout, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, President of the New Silk Road Institute and Chairman of the Czech-Chinese Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Professor Oskar Krejčí, outstanding Czech left political scientist; J. Baum, Professor at the University of Vienna (Transform Austria); Veronika Sušová-Salminen, historian; Lubomír Lédl, Vice Chairman of the SDS party and Vice Chairman of the Czech-Chinese Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Ina Shupac (member of ExB EL) spoke on behalf of the EL and presented its (positive) statement.

The event was concluded by Jiri Malek (SPED) who summarised as follows:

This conference has provided a wholesome picture of the Chinese policies in this region and can be seen as a further step down the road to continuing communications on PEL soil and on that of other left European structures.

Further opportunities need to be searched for, not only in terms of dialogue on trade issues, but also to lead left-wing political dialogue between the left-wing actors in Europe and on the Chinese side.

The successful practice of the “16+1” concept would also need to strengthen the political dialogue between the left in CEE and China, specifically in the V4 [Visegrád states: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia]. Therefore, other future seminars should be considered within the V4 countries.

What can be said to summarise? China is part of the global world and its importance is growing. It would be unacceptable if the left in Europe did not reflect this trend. Therefore, we need to look at all the possibilities to be able to understand the ongoing changes and give them a leftist interpretation. We need to be wary to ensure that the left does not follow mainstream neoliberal interpretation. On the contrary, it must be ready to change world hegemony in the future and establish a new global multilateral arrangement.