Allies unite against communism
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2023.3.30
Czech Chamber of Deputies Speaker Marketa Pekarova Adamova arrived in Taiwan on Saturday. The visit not only showcases the rising status of Taiwan in the international community, but the support and friendship between Taiwan and the Czech Republic.
Adamova quoted a popular phrase during the Prague Spring in 1968: “I guarantee you we are with you now, we will continue to be with you and under any circumstances we are in the same boat together. Because you are with us, so we are with you.”
The Prague Spring was a period of liberalization in Czechoslovakia under then-Czechoslovak Communist Party first secretary Alexander Dubcek, who promulgated a reform program promising “socialism with a human face.”
To suppress the reforms, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, and Dubcek was deposed. At the time, China strongly objected to the invasion, but in 1956, after Hungary declared its departure from the Warsaw Pact, then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev faced additional pressure from China to quell the uprising in Budapest.
As a student in Beijing at the time, the Chinese government had us sit through frequent political lessons to brainwash us into believing that there was a legitimate cause to send in troops and that the Chinese had an even harder stance than the Soviets.
The reason for the two opposing perspectives was simple enough: China was vying with the Soviet Union for the leadership of the Communist International.
In 1988, I watched The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a US romantic drama film that was adapted from the novel of the same name by Milan Kundera. Later, Chinese writer Dai Qing (戴晴) sent me a privately published copy of the Chinese translation.
As 1987 marked the time when China was at its most open, the need for private publication indicated that China had never acknowledged the Prague Spring movement.
In 1998, my wife and I visited the Czech Republic. The year marked the 20th anniversary of the Prague Spring, and we left flowers at Wenceslas Square, the site where the Velvet Revolution took place in 1989.
The Prague Spring movement did not lead to bloodshed, with Dubcek deposed and then expelled, but not arrested nor put under house arrest. After the Velvet Revolution in 1992, Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia under an agreement by the Czech and Slovak prime ministers without holding a public vote. The two have remained close allies.
From socialism with a human face, the Velvet Revolution to the “Velvet Divorce,” the fight for independence was carried out in peace. The separation has manifested the two nations’ values regarding democracy and peace, which is the complete opposite of the Chinese’s bloodthirsty nature.
At the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) stated that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should work together to pursue peace and avoid war. How ironic this was: It was Sun’s violent revolution and the Northern Expedition that gave rise to the Chinese Civil War and autocracy under Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Mao Zedong (毛澤東).
Central eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic and Lithuania have suffered under the autocratic rule of communist regimes and experienced the pain of betrayal, so they understand what Taiwan is going through. Shared pain forges the most powerful bonds.
I would hope that one day these countries can unite to establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite facing the wrath of China with the breaking of ties and other vengeful acts. Lithuania dropped out of China’s “17+1” bloc in 2021 because of Beijing. Perhaps Taiwan could one day replace China as the “1” in the bloc, and with its members sharing the values of democracy, there would be no more bullying or abuse in the alliance.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Rita Wang