Overall, China does not feature highly on the agenda of Slovak political representation. China appears in the Slovak political discourse only rarely (abovementioned case of Dalai Lama’s meeting with President Kiska is one such case). Indeed, when we examined the Slovak media discourse, politicians rarely commented on China. Among 76 stakeholders who voiced their opinion on China at least three times in 2010–2016/2017 period, only 3 politicians appeared (Turcsányi and Šimalčík 2018).
Examining political program documents of Slovak political parties reveals only scarce mentions of China. Probably the most extensive description of how a party wishes to engage with an increasingly more powerful China is contained in a foreign policy program developed by a non-parliamentary, newly established party SPOLU–občianska demokracia (TOGETHER–Civic Democracy). The leitmotif of the document Successful Slovakia in an Uncertain World is Slovakia’s anchoring in Western civilization and belonging to the Euro-Atlantic grouping of states. This is echoed in the section on China as well, as the document proposes that “we [Slovakia] can help turn China into a responsible stakeholder in global decision making” (Beblavý et al. n.d.). The rise of China is viewed as a challenge to the global West. SPOLU recognizes the dichotomy in Chinese behavior, whence Chinese leaders propose that China is willing to support the preservation of current international system, while at the same time it “acts aggressively in its neighborhood, especially when it comes to its expansion in South China Sea.” Thus, Slovakia, as part of EU and the global West, should appeal to China to use its influence responsibly, and also should support human rights and rule of law in China.
As for other parties, there is not enough documentary evidence as to their views of China. Regarding current government coalition (Smer–SD, Slovak National Party, and Most–Hid), some views can be deduced from the fact that it is their government which passed the strategic documents on China. The economic focus of the document suggests a high level of pragmatism of these parties vis-à-vis China.
Looking at the statements by two consecutive prime ministers from the Smer–SD party, Robert Fico and Peter Pellegrini, it is evident that they view China mostly in economic terms as an opportunity for attracting new investments. This pragmatism can at time conflict with the views of the more idealist politicians. A notable example is the conflict between Fico and Kiska over Dalai Lama’s visit in 2016, which was already described above. Interestingly, in pursuing pragmatist economic policy towards China, a narrative convergence between Chinese and Slovak representatives has been occurring. After the 2018 Sofia Summit of the 16 + 1 platform, Prime Minster Pellegrini has been basically echoing Chinese position in the benefits of the platform and its relations to the broader EU-China relation (Dubravčíková et al. 2018).
Yet, not all members of the abovementioned parties subscribe to such a pragmatist view. A notable example is the Member of Parliament for the Smer–SD party, Ľuboš Blaha. A self-described Marxist, Blaha often promotes views that are opposing the USA, globalization, and liberalism, and defends Marxism and communist rule in Czechoslovakia before the 1989. Only recently, Blaha went to China to present his book “An Antiglobalist”—the irony being that today’s China is a staunch supporter of globalization; hence, Blaha was going against the Chinese official line.
A similar case can be made also about Milan Uhrík, a member of parliament for the neo-Nazi party Kotleba–People’s Party Our Slovakia. In 2016, Uhrík visited China at the invitation of the Henan provincial government. In his Facebook posts from the visit, Uhrík praised Chinese state–owned enterprises and their efficiency, which in Uhrík’s words protects China from foreign colonizers and Chinese people from capitalistic pillage, despite the fact that the inefficiency of these enterprises has been repeatedly mentioned by the official state-owned media in China. Moreover, Uhrík praised the communist government of China, while at the same time denouncing the EU. Similar to Blaha, Uhrík also made paradoxical statements in his praise of China. According to him, there is virtually no corruption in the country, which runs contrary to the notoriously known anti-corruption campaign of Xi Jinping that calls for a stricter investigation of corruption within the Communist Party of China and state administration (Uhrík 2016).
However, views of adoration akin to those of Blaha and Uhrík are not at all common among Slovak politicians. Many of the opposition politicians actually hold quite anti-Chinese views determined by their support for human rights and democracy, which in turn shapes their support of Taiwan.
To illustrate, when in 2017 an exhibition of dead bodies was planned in Bratislava, several activists and politicians opposed it on account that the bodies were probably from China. Ondrej Dostál, a conservative opposition member of parliament (OKS party), raised issue of human rights and thus lobbied for prohibiting the exhibition (SITA 2017).
Negative views of China were also articulated by Martin Poliačik, a liberal opposition politician (formerly SaS party, now Progressive Slovakia party). His negative views of China were pronounced in his comments on the state of human rights in Tibet. Similar views were expressed also by his former fellow party member Štefan Osuský (Parlamentné listy 2017). Poliačik, Osuský, and couple other legislators even founded a parliamentary Friends of Tibet Club. Club members at one point hanged a flag of Tibet in the Slovak parliament and called on Chinese government to enter into dialogue with the Tibetan government in exile (TASR 2014).