Janez Janša And The China Clusterfuck

Every time pengovsky does a series of posts on the state of things in Slovenia, shit happens to interrupt the regular programming. And this time, boy did the excrement hit the oscillator. The story of course is PM Janša’s recent interview for an Indian state TV. The whole things a sight to see, but money-quotes include the Glorious Leader lambasting China for its handling of the epidemic and standing up for Lithuania after the EU member opened a trade office in Taiwan.

PM Janša in a TV interview, talking about China and Taiwan, among other things.

So far so good. The part about the pandemic is a bit impolitic, but OK. He went on to say that Slovenia will follow Lithuania and open its own office in Taipei. Which… um… Right? But then he said “he’d support the sovereign decision of the Taiwanese people to decide for themselves how they want to live”. Not surprisingly, the Chinese foreign office blew its stack. Thus Glorious Leader landed Muddy Hollows in another diplomatic dumpster fire.

Both readers will remember Janša’s letter-writing campaign that raised eyebrows all over the EU. Or his support of Hungarian anti-LGBT legislation which enraged the more forward thinking EU members, just before Slovenia took over the presidency. There is also, of course, his involvement in the Bosnian Non-Paper Affair. And let us not forget his infamous meltdown over results of the US 2020 election, where he never retracted his claim that Joe Biden lost. But now, he managed to piss off Beijing.

Lithuanian episode

This all comes at the time when China is bullying Lithuania for opening a trade office in Taiwan. The EU sort-of-kind-of rallied in defence of its member state, even though some were reportedly fuming over the Baltic state’s solo action. But the point is that there now was a common EU position which can only be truly effective if it becomes everyone’s talking point.

Which makes Janša’s statements during the interview even more impossible to comprehend. I mean, the dude had just wrapped up a six-months EU presidency stint (such as it was). Does he not comprehend anymore how the EU works? Is he even more of a thick-headed ass-weed than we assumed he was? Or is it that he simply does not give a flying fuck and is willing to set fire to, well, everything?

In fact, Marshal Twito went far beyond anything the Lithuanians did to earn them a diplomatic relegation and a threat of a trade embargo.

Nixing One China policy

Namely, in the interview Janša stated Taiwan is “the legitimate successor of China”. He also said the Taiwanese people have a sovereign right to decide on whether they want to live as a part of China or not. Which is a very direct way of saying that a) the government in Beijing is illegitimate and b) Slovenia does not recognise the One China policy.

So, the second position could be argued plausibly on an intelectual and/or academic level. But in real life it represents a 180-degrees turn from a position Slovenia publicly stated as little as four years ago. Moreover, Slovenian parliament did in fact adopt a fresh 36-page foreign relations strategy since. But in the document the word “China” appears only four times. The word “Taiwan” does not appear at all.

So, both from a EU and national foreign policy position, Janša is flying solo.

But if nixing the One China policy gets Beijing hopping mad, claiming that Beijing is not the legitimate successor to pre-war China must make them fucking furious. I mean, at least to pengovsky’s untrained eye, this is the entire foundation of Chinese post-war foreign policy. This is why Nixon went to see Mao, ferfacksake.

No wonder Beijing is livid.

Numbers game

Pre-pandemic, Slovenia imported around 1.4 billion euros of goods from China, and exported around 200 million-worth to the country. There are a few major Chinese investments in Slovenia (notably Hisense which bought appliance-maker Gorenje in 2018). There are also a number of Slovenian companies having a go at the Chinese market, that depend on ease of access and good relations between the countries. Then there’s Port of Koper, which recently signed up for the New Silk Road initiative.

Speaking of Port of Koper, Chinese trade flowing through it is one of the primary reasons Hungarian government of Viktor Orban was openly looking to obtaining a stake in the operation. It is also the primary reason they were so interested in financing the upgrade of Koper-Divača railway. Pengovsky assumes the Hungarian Overlórd is not happy with his protege playing foreign policy by himself.

He is not the only one. Konkretno (ex-SMC) leader and minister of economy Zdravko Počivalšek may not be overly useful, but he does know how to read numbers. And what he sees prompted him to demand the PM explain himself.

That said, Janša is not Erjavec who once toyed with recognition of Palestine, only to be cut off by Počivalšek and trade numbers with Israel. If the Konkretno leader steps out of line too much, don’t be surprised if one of those criminal investigations against him suddenly bears fruit.

Missing foreign minister

Notably missing in all of this, however, is foreign minister Anže Logar. Pengovsky also wonders if such a major foreign policy deviation was cleared or at least discussed with president Pahor. Namely, under Slovenian system of government, all three are equally important in diplomatic representation of the country. And the PM and the FM are – at least in theory – answerable to the parliamentary foreign policy committee. Which is already making noises.

At any rate, if Beijing does make good on its rhetoric, the damage to Slovenia could be as much economic as it can be diplomatic. And that, of course is the crux of the matter.

Eviscerating the regime in Beijing for its human rights abuses is all fine and dandy. In fact, it should be done more often. There’s even logic in pursuing deeper relations with Taiwan. But diplomacy, as they say, is an art of telling someone to go fuck themselves and make them look forward to the journey.

About that Security Council bid…

More importantly, diplomacy is waged over decades, not merely in four-year electoral cycles. It is also a skill where words and settings in which they are spoken have both overt and implied meanings, and both are equally important.

This is something Janša never understood. This is why he will never be the statesman his believers make him out to be. This also why he repeatedly creates diplomatic clusterfucks, both big and small.

I guess the only upside to all of this is that Slovenian foreign ministry can stop spending money campaigning for Slovenian non-permanent UN Security Council seat. It seems a safe bet that certain permanent member would have an objection or two…

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.