Dramatic rise in interest in the Czech Republic

Consul General Richard Krpac has seen a tenfold increase in the number of visas issued to people from China

Richard Krpac, consul general of the Czech Republic in Shanghai, has witnessed a tenfold increase in the number of visas issued to Chinese visitors during his four-year tenure in Shanghai amidst the 500,000 people from China who visited the Central European country in 2017.

Krpac expects the number to increase by 20 percent every year for the foreseeable future. Such a rapid increase in Chinese visitors concurs with the development of bilateral relations over the years.

“When I first arrived, not that many people in China knew much about the Czech Republic,” Krpac says.

“That has dramatically changed in the last five years. There are now so many projects sprouting in various fields including economic, education, health, culture, tourism, etc. The knowledge of Chinese people about the Czech Republic and that of Czech people about China has become much deeper than ever before,” he adds.

Krpac attributes this development to the friendship between the leaders of the two countries. President Milos Zeman has visited China a number of times while Chinese President Xi Jinping spent three days on a state visit to Prague in 2016.

“It obviously helps that the Czech Republic became sort of a gateway for China in Central and Eastern Europe with direct flights to Prague from four Chinese cities — Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Xi’an,” he says.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Richard Krpac, consul general of the Czech Republic in Shanghai, is seeing more potential in collaboration between the two countries.

Machinery forms a major part of Czech exports to China, while China sells computers, mobile phones and similar items in turn. The consul general is seeing new trends and potential in many more industries in both countries and for collaborative partnerships, especially in the digital and technology sectors.

“It is interesting that the digital economy is taking over now,” he says. “Seventy percent of all the packages traveling through the Czech Republic handled by Czech Post are products from Chinese e-commerce sites. People are very happy about getting Chinese products for a very reasonable price.”

Skoda cars and crystal gifts are among the most popular Czech products on the Chinese market, while Czech online travel portal Kiwi.com has attracted a large number of Chinese travelers pursuing both high quality and good price. Opportunities in this large and competitive market may be explored at the upcoming first China International Import Expo in Shanghai in November.

“First and foremost, I very much appreciate the fact that China is organizing an import expo, as most countries in the world only organize export expos,” Krpac says.

Among the global trade disputes initiated by US President Donald Trump, Krpac hopes China and the European Union will cooperate with “open-mindedness, great sincerity and generosity.”

“It’s very important that China opens up more quickly, and Europe keeps its very open borders as they are for foreign goods, and these two economies should start to cooperate more and show an example to the world,” he notes.

Krpac says the Czech Republic took its participation in the CIIE extremely seriously, as President Zeman, “a great friend of China and also the best ambassador of Czech products in the world,” will bring a delegation of many companies to Shanghai.

“So far the high demands of companies are already more than the space given to us in the pavilion,” he says.

In China for seven years including four in Shanghai, Krpac acknowledges the Chinese market to be among the most competitive in the world, for both Chinese and foreign companies.

“I don’t think all companies should come. It is a large market, and it is also extremely competitive,” he says. “Those who have an excellent product, a lot of marketing money and a lot of patience have a chance.”

He is quite hopeful about Czech beers, which are still largely absent in China.

“The beer market here is very competitive, and the uphill battle will be difficult,” he says.

“But Chinese customers like quality at a reasonable price. If there is something best in the world, Chinese consumers will want it. And Czech beer is one of the best.”

Ti Gong

The Krpacs particpate in an entertainment show hosted by the Hunan Satellite TV.

Krpac is very proud of his Shanghai connection — through his Shanghainese wife Tang Yu and their three sons.

“My favorite place in Shanghai is the 100-year-old former residence of politician Duan Qirui, the great grandfather of my wife,” says the consul general. “It is nestled in a beautiful garden of old Shanghai.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Czech Republic, and the local consulate office has planned a series of events including concerts, seminars, conferences and exhibitions.

“Many people say Shanghai is the Paris of the East, but I felt completely differently when I first arrived in 2014, looking at Lujiazui. Shanghai may have been the Paris of the East 100 years ago, but I think now it is New York of the 21st century,” Krpac says.

“In the same way, many people consider Paris the most romantic city in the world, and that is also 100 years ago. Now, Prague is the most romantic city in the wolrd!” he adds.

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