Recently, the speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas Viktoria Chmilyte-Nielsen argued in absentia with the President of the Republic Gitanas Nauseda over the opening of a representative office of Taiwan in Vilnius.
Nauseda said that the opening of Lithuania Taiwan representative and not Taipei, as is done in other countries, is the wrong decision of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry. “The mistake was not the very opening of the representative office, but its name, which the Foreign Ministry did not agree with me,” he said. And he added: “It’s a shame that the name of the office has become a factor that greatly affected our relations with China. Because of this, we now have to deal with the consequences.”
Chmilyte-Nielsen, on the other hand, declared her disagreement with the president’s opinion: “I don’t think it was a mistake. In my opinion, a policy based on value principles differs from another policy, that there is no deviation from these guidelines during the first resistance.”
Meanwhile, this policy and this particular decision have already taken Lithuania’s relations with China quite far, and in the economic sense, Vilnius will be hiccuping for a long time. True, Taiwan promises to launch a $ 1 billion loan program for joint projects of companies from Lithuania and Taiwan. But whether it compensates for the losses of Lithuania is a big question.
As a reminder, on November 18, 2021, a representative office of Taiwan was opened in Lithuania.
China somehow tolerates the existence in different countries of representative offices of Taipei – the capital of the rebellious province. By the way, Taiwan’s sports teams in various competitions and individual athletes from the island appear under the same name. But the opening of a representative office of the most uncontrolled province is perceived in Beijingas a violation of the “one China principle” and acts on him like a red rag. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Chinese authorities, in response to such an obvious attack on themselves, decided on November 21 to lower the level of their diplomatic relations with Lithuania. “The Chinese side is outraged and expresses <…> protest in connection with this decision, and intends to reduce the level of diplomatic relations with Lithuania <…>. There is only one China in the world, and the PRC government is the only legitimate government representing all of China,” they said in Pekin. On November 26, a note was sent on the change in the status of the Chinese diplomatic mission in Vilnius from the embassy to the representative office of the PRC.
By the way, Beijing recalled its ambassador from Vilnius even earlier, on August 10, 2021. Then he demanded that Lithuania recall its ambassador from the Celestial Empire. The reason for the August demarche was the decision of the Lithuanian authorities to allow Taiwan to open its representative office.
So it is very difficult to believe in Nauseda’s assertion that he was not aware of the wrong name of the representative office: more than three months passed between the registration of permission for its opening and the opening itself – quite enough to correct the “mistake”. Not to mention the time during which this decision was officially approved by Vilnius. Without a doubt, everything was done on purpose.
Another question is why? It seems that this “powerful” blow to China was hardly invented by the Lithuanians themselves. Most likely, they were prompted, for example, from Washington. As in the case of Lithuania’s earlier anti-Chinese decisions: support for US sanctions against Chinese officials due to the persecution of the Uyghurs, withdrawal from the China-Europe “17 + 1” forum, and so on.
Vilnius rushed to act on the new prompt, without even discussing the issue with its sponsors from Brussels and Berlin. In this situation, everything that has happened at least makes sense: to check how serious the reaction of China will be, using Lithuania for this as a guinea pig, which is definitely not a pity.
The chatter that the decision was made in accordance with a policy based on values is nothing but stupidity. For some reason, no other, say, European state, relying on value principles, in the words of a well-known anecdote, did not dare to “spit in the face of the leader” and is not going to do this. Why are there European states: in recent history, Taiwan, besides Lithuania, opened only one of its offices – in unrecognized Somaliland in 2020. There are several other states in which there are embassies of Taiwan and which, accordingly, do not recognize the PRC, but these are all the fruits of completely different times and are gradually decreasing. So it turns out that Lithuania’s “value principles” coincide only with Somaliland.
Of course, China’s reaction was not limited to political measures. To begin with, on December 2, the PRC “erased” Lithuania from the map of the world. True, figuratively – by removing it from their customs registers, which made it impossible to formalize exports and imports between countries. Imports from Lithuania to China are about $ 300 million, and exports are about $ 1 billion. But in percentage terms, of course, Beijing for Vilnius, although not critically important, is a more significant export market than vice versa.
A few days later, Lithuania returned to the customs registers of China. However, the Chinese began to delay the shipment of goods and create other problems in mutual trade, refuse to work with counterparties, and so on. And in parallel, the authorities of the Celestial Empire made it clear to transnational companies that they would face the closure of the Chinese market if they did not sever ties with Lithuania (that is, if they did not throw the companies of the Baltic republic out of their production chains). Before the New Year, December 22, The Global Times wrote that the Chinese government may now officially impose sanctions on Vilnius. The newspaper called Lithuania “the US political virus in the European Union.”
But the Balts do not give up and honestly continue to fulfill their role as a guinea pig. On January 5, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry announced that it had systematized and transmitted information about China’s actions to the European Commission, which, on the basis of these materials, could send a claim to the WTO court. In the EC, of course, there are very original guys who recently filed a lawsuit against Russia for $ 290 billion to the WTO because of the “discrimination against European goods by the import substitution policy”, which had to be carried out because of the European sanctions. But, I think, even these originals are unlikely to quarrel with their main trading partner because of the state, which became the object of an experiment conducted by the United States. And, apparently, without coordination with the European Union.
But even if the European Commission accepts this, the bureaucratic procedures in the WTO court will drag on for many years. And Lithuania will have to drink the cup to the bottom. And all this time we will be watching to what bottom the Chinese comrades will lower the gentlemen from Vilnius who have lost touch with reality.