Lithuania inflates its own importance by antagonizing Beijing with visit to Taiwan. Writes Ahmed Adel
Immediately after the visit of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, a delegation from Lithuania arrived on the island. In this way, Lithuania is attempting to ingratiate itself with Washington by deliberately antagonising Beijing, especially at a time when relations between the US and China are heightened.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on its Twitter account that a delegation from Lithuania, led by Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications, Agnė Vaiciukevičiūtė, arrived on Sunday for a five-day visit to Taiwan. By enthusiastically being the first country to send a delegation to Taiwan after Pelosi’s visit, Lithuania’s action is nothing more than an expression of submission and adulation to Washington.
It is more than likely that the visit of the Lithuanian delegation to Taiwan was coordinated with the US. The goal of the multi-day visit is to implement the American strategy, aimed at developing Taiwan’s international relations with the globe. This is despite the fact that the US continues to claim that it respects the “One China” policy.
It is no coincidence that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said that the visit of Pelosi “opened the door even more.” With a statement like this, he invited other countries to consider visiting Taiwan. With the visit of the Lithuanian delegation, Vilnius wanted to show the whole world how a small country managed to gather courage while the rest are afraid of Beijing. Vilnius in this way inflates its own ego and importance on the global stage.
Although Vilnius tried to provoke and annoy Beijing under the influence of the Americans, China is a great power and will continue considering Taiwan as part of its territory, meaning that the Lithuanian visit to the island will not change anything. China has already reduced both economic and political relations with Lithuania to a minimum.
Despite the Lithuanian provocation, it is unlikely that Beijing will respond to the visit in the same way as Pelosi’s. Consider that the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are home to about six million people; China has 15 or more cities with larger populations.
Landsbergis said on his Twitter account that Pelosi allegedly “opened the door wide in Taiwan” with her visit. At the same time, he expressed his belief that other “defenders of freedom and democracy” will come to the island very soon too.
In a statement on Twitter, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warmly welcomed Lithuania’s Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications and wished the minister a highly productive five-day stay in order to “strengthen strategic cooperation and business ties in advanced sectors.” According to the Central Taiwan News Agency, the delegation intends to meet separately with representatives of the Ministry of Transport.
The visit of the Lithuanian delegation to Taiwan takes place at a time of deteriorating relations between Vilnius and Beijing. Last November, a representative office of Taiwan was opened in Lithuania, which caused a protest from Beijing, and then a degradation of diplomatic relations. In addition, China restricted imports from Lithuania, which indirectly affected EU trade.
For their part, Global Times, considered the English-language mouthpiece of Beijing, wrote in an article published on August 8 that Chinese social media users called “for severe punishment for malicious behaviours that seriously violates the one-China principle and infringes on China’s sovereignty.” Such a response, Global Times opined, could be an imposition of sanctions on Lithuanian companies that conduct business in Taiwan and have economic relations “with the secessionists in the island.”
“In particular, if Lithuania’s export to the island of Taiwan is found to violate the EU’s own export control measures or restrictions, China has sufficient reasons to take corresponding countermeasures against Lithuania,” the article added.
In this way, although Beijing might not create a huge diplomatic storm and reaction as it did to Pelosi’s visit, it can still hugely harm Lithuania. Trade between China and Lithuania dropped dramatically due to Vilnius’ challenge against the One China principle. Exports to the Chinese mainland in the first quarter plunged by nearly 77% from a year ago, according to the South China Morning Post.
All this is occurring amidst Lithuania’s own demographic, economic and criminality crisis, making the country’s unprovoked hostility towards Beijing all the more bizarre.
Ahmed Adel, Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher.
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