Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil recently led a delegation to Taiwan where he extended support to the island nation, a move that angered the Chinese regime. In retaliation, China rejected an order of pianos from Petrof, a Czech-based business that is one of the most prominent piano manufacturers in Europe. Karel Komarek, a Czech billionaire, decided to give the Chinese government a strong reply and remind people that the Czech Republic is a free nation.
Before Vystrcil’s Taiwan visit, Petrof had received an order for 11 pianos from China. However, after the visit, talks of sanctioning Czech companies in China began making the rounds. This is when Petrof’s orders got canceled since the importer had no money to pay the potential fines. According to the company, orders from China make up about 35 percent of its revenue. As such, Petrof is seriously worried about whether the current conflict between the two countries will blow up and harm their profitability.
When Komarek came to know about this, he contacted Petrof to buy all their pianos through the Karel Komarek Family Foundation (KKFF). According to Petrof owner Zuzana Ceralova Petrofova, the order was very important for the company since 2020 has been a financially difficult year. When she came to know about Komarek’s decision, Petrofova was initially surprised at the generous action of the billionaire.
“We decided to buy the pianos as soon as we learned about the issue. My wife and I agreed that our Foundation would donate them to Czech schools immediately. We would be happy if those eleven instruments became the symbol of Czech pride and cohesion… Czechia is a successful, and most of all, free country. It’s what I myself appreciate beyond anything else and what I would like to remind our citizens of with this little step,” Komarek said in a statement.
Komarek has an estimated net worth of US$3.8 billion and is considered the 648th richest man in the world. He started off investing in oil and gas in the 90s. He is the founder of KKCG, an investment group that has a stake in 30 companies across Central Europe. The Chinese government is said to have imposed sanctions on all Czech businessmen and representatives who participated in the Taiwan visit. Many of these firms are small and medium-sized businesses. The Czech business leaders called China’s sanctions childish and said that they were prepared for the Chinese government’s economic retaliation before committing to the trip.
In addition to sanctioning Czech firms, Beijing is also targeting the European country’s tourism industry and has issued a travel advisory warning Chinese citizens to avoid traveling to the Czech Republic. The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism justified the advisory by pointing out that the Czech Republic was showing “signs of a quick rebound in COVID-19 pandemic.”
Meanwhile, Taiwanese people are apparently angry at what they perceive is a betrayal from Vystrcil. In a speech given in Taipei, he had spoken in a manner that implied that he supported Taiwan. However, after getting back to his home country, Vystrcil denied that he ever claimed Taiwan was an independent country, thereby leaning to Beijing’s stance on the island nation. This has made Taiwanese netizens question whether inviting him was worth it.
Vystrcil’s move is believed to have been aimed at placating Beijing so as to avoid any negative consequences to his country that might endanger his political career. Czech President Milos Zeman slammed Vystrcil for his visit to Taiwan and publicly announced that he would stop inviting the Senate president to foreign policy briefings.