The Czech Ambassador to China Vladimír Tomšík sees the opportunities for both countries to cooperate for a better future. (Photo: Li Hao/GT)
When President Xi Jinping had his first state visit to Central and Eastern European countries, the Czech Republic became the first stop to showcase its determination to escalate bilateral relation to a new height. The strategic partnership agreement was also signed during the visit.
Today, the bilateral ties are getting broader and deeper. The Czech Statistical Office released initial data on August 6, showing that the trade volume between China and the Czech Republic reached $13.58 billion dollars from January to June, up 7.7 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, the amount of Chinese tourists to the Czech Republic has been growing steadily in recent years. According to the latest data released by the Czech Tourist Authority, the number of Chinese tourists to the Czech Republic has exceeded 250,000 in the first half of 2019.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and the Czech Republic. The Global Times reporter talked with the Czech Ambassador to China Vladimír Tomšík about the growing possibilities of bilateral ties.
From economist to ambassador
Before Tomšík came to China as the ambassador, China had been familiar with his career in the financial sector. The ambassador worked for the Czech National Bank over 12 years ago, and before that, he was an economist and researcher at the World Trade Institute in Switzerland. He said that he knew already at that time that it was obvious that China would play a very important role in global development. "If you asked me when my first visit to China was, it was more than a decade ago and I cannot imagine working on this very interesting research project without visiting China and discussing it with Chinese partners," Tomšík said.
Working as the deputy governor of the Czech National Bank offered him even more opportunities to travel to China and his job often required him to go into details about bilateral talks. "I was responsible for negotiating and signing free memorandums between the Czech National Bank and all the Chinese authorities in the financial sector," he said.
Tomšík witnessed all of the Chinese big banks starting doing business with the Czech Republic, including the Bank of China, ICBC and the Bank of Communications and how they support the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and that they applied for a license in the Czech financial market. "I supported this idea very much because I think this is the right thing to do," he added.
His previous experience in supporting cooperation with China convinced him that there is a growing possibility in bilateral relationships. Tomšík was so excited about getting to know more about China that he didn't hesitate and immediately traveled to China and took his post as ambassador when he received the offer from the Czech official authorities, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Czech president.
In the face of an increasing opportunities on both sides, the newly-appointed Czech ambassador has a lot of work to do. In the past several months, Tomšík has been traveling and meeting people on a tight schedule, dedicating his role to bridging connectivity between the two countries. "I have visited China for many times, but still there is a long way ahead of me to really get to know all your provinces, cities, history and culture," he said. "I am pretty sure that there are a lot of opportunities for both countries to cooperate and promote people-to-people connections and to work for a better future for all of us."
The ambassador reiterated in the interview about his willingness to build a bridge between both nations and use the bridge to support the collaboration. "If Chinese companies enter the Czech market, at the same time, they are entering the European Union without barriers. So, it's not about the size of the territory or population, but the size of potential market," Tomšík said.
When the Czech Republic offers possibilities for Chinese businesses, the Chinese market is also a breeding ground for Czech companies to grow bigger. "I can see that the Czech companies that are successful in doing business in China have clearly recognized the importance of getting to know China more and they are supporting the BRI," Tomšík said. He gave the example of the world-leading consumer finance provider Home Credit, which started doing business in China more than 10 years ago and has continued to grow now.
This year is a very special year for both countries as it marks the 70 years of the founding of the PRC and the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and the Czech Republic.
Looking back on the 70 years of the bilateral relations, Tomšík sees three milestones that conclude the past seven decades. The first one is the start of diplomatic relations in 1949, as it was one of the earliest countries to do so with the PRC. The second one is the signing of the strategic partnership during Xi's visit to the Czech Republic in 2016, and the third one is the milestone "in the making," which is the future base of the strategic dialogue and the intergovernmental commission that has been scheduled by both sides for this anniversary year to meet for the first time. According to the Czech Embassy in China, it is incremental to the establishment of long-lasting, pragmatic and an all-weather cooperation platform that will incorporate the main pillars of bilateral cooperation.
In order to facilitate further exchanges, new possibilities for business exchanges and tourism are opening up. "We hope to open more flight connections on top of the four existing direct flights," Tomšík said, adding that they expect more than 650,000 Chinese visitors to the Czech Republic this year and they are also targeting the increase in growth of student exchanges. "We should not forget the cultural dimension of our relationship, in which there is an increasing interest on both sides for greater cooperation," he said, adding that the recently signed Protocol on Cultural Cooperation for Years 2019-2022 between the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China should help facilitate cultural exchanges.