Travelling to China is a constant feature of Slovak foreign policy. Including the Mečiar era, Slovakia has sent 8 delegations there in the last 12 years, not including attempts by the HZDS and Smer parties to form links with the Chinese Communist Party.
Every trip to China has been justified with reference to the need to develop business cooperation, even though imports from China exceed Slovak exports there seven-fold. To be sure, China has a huge trade surplus with all EU countries, as the world's largest dictatorship is surrounded by customs barriers. Success on the Chinese market is a matter of bribing corrupt local officials, not holding talks with top government and Communist Party members. What Fico should note for his vision of building a "social" Slovakia is the absence of social and health care insurance and the low wages that are the basis of China's unfair advantages in international trade.
The significance of China for the Slovak economy is exaggerated. Our exports there, which come to about 0.5 percent of our overall exports, are comparable to what we sell to Croatia. Politicians will change nothing in this, nor do they intend to - they are more interested in taking an exotic holiday, and will certainly not bring up human rights, even though it is part of their agenda, because that would offend their communist comrades. It is a waste of time to appeal to Fico on this score on his February 5-7 visit, given that Dzurinda was silent during his 2005 visit.
With its economic growth, militancy, nationalism and internal oppression, China is one of the greatest threats of the 21st century. Raising issues like the Tiananmen Square massacre or the 1,500 state executions a year is the moral duty of all democratic statesmen and is far more in the practical interests of the nation than fictions about increasing trade. If anyone disagrees, they only have to ask the leaders of the previous seven expeditions exactly what they got out of their trips, and whether it was enough to cover the cost of at least all those air tickets to China.
Sme, February 5
12. Feb 2007 at 0:00