Lithuania Is Not Alone as It Faces Retaliation From Beijing Over Taiwan Stance

Part 2 of the 2-part series: Lithuania–China Diplomatic Row
December 23, 2021 Updated: December 23, 2021

News Analysis

The United States, the European Union, and other countries have spoken out in support of Lithuania’s defiance of China.

Since Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a representative office with the word “Taiwan” in the name, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is striking back at the small nation with economic sanctions and isolation.

US Support

The United States is looking into ways of increasing its trade and investment with Lithuania, to help the Baltic nation recover some of the money it lost when China cancelled its commercial contracts.

“We support our European partners and our allies as they develop mutually beneficial relations with Taiwan and resist the [People’s Republic of China’s] coercive behavior,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis met with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Washington on Nov. 24. They discussed increasing trade and investment between the two countries. Washington and Vilnius have already signed a $600 million export credit agreement with the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda met with President Joe Biden to ask for U.S. support.

Nauseda told the press: “I once again thanked the United States for its involvement in our defence and security. Of course, I asked for consistent support for our policy vis-à-vis China.

Biden confirmed his support for Lithuania on the Taiwan issue, and also pledged to increased military support for Central Europe.

EU and Other Countries Support Lithuania

Lithuania appealed to the EU, whose response was that it is prepared to stand up to political coercion as the relationship between one EU member and China impacts the relationship between the entire bloc and China. Brussels, Washington, and Warsaw have supported Lithuania’s stance.

Beijing responded by sending Chinese nuclear-capable H-6 bombers over Taiwan’s air space on Nov. 21.

Lithuania said that while it regrets Beijing’s response, it has the right to expand its engagement with Taiwan.

Regarding the economic and political fallout from the CCP’s reaction, Nauseda said, “Currently, Lithuania is a target, and we need to have the support of the US, the EU, and Australia.”

Epoch Times Photo
Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda listens to national statements during day three of COP26 in Glasgow, UK, on Nov. 2, 2021. (Adrian Dennis/Pool/Getty Images)

A number of legislators from Europe, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand have asked the international community to back Lithuania, saying that the CCP’s “bullying” was meant to dissuade other countries from engaging with Taiwan.

Beijing Retaliates

Beijing has told multinational corporations that they must stop doing business with Lithuania. German auto parts manufacturer Continental AG reported being pressured by the CCP to stop using Lithuanian-made components.

China has also cancelled contracts with Lithuanian manufacturers. The Lithuanian government is considering starting a fund to protect Lithuanian companies that are sanctioned by Beijing or banned from the Chinese market.

The CCP has also restricted exports to Lithuania, and has stopped export credit guarantees for Lithuanian imports. Among the products affected are food stuffs, lasers, raw materials, pharmaceuticals, furniture, and clothing.

CCP-induced supply chain disruptions extend to the high-tech, agricultural, food processing, timber, textile, and logistics sectors.

Taiwan Issue

Some U.S. lawmakers have urged the Biden administration to ensure that other countries will continue to maintain relations with Taiwan.

The Promoting Ties with Taiwan Act, a bipartisan bill introduced on Nov. 23 by Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), proposes that the U.S. government use its diplomatic influence to convince other countries to increase their engagement with Taiwan.

At the end of November, around American Thanksgiving, a delegation of five U.S. congressional representatives, led by House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano, visited Taiwan and met with President Tsai Ing-wen.

Just before the visit, the Biden administration invited Taiwan—and not China—to participate in a global democracy summit.

The Financial Times reported that the United States is considering the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (Taiwan’s de facto embassy) to be renamed the “Taiwan Representative Office.” As soon as the news broke, Beijing issued a formal protest.

U.S. lawmakers have written a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO), asking it to recognize Taiwan. The WHO allowed Taiwan to participate as “Chinese Taipei” from 1997 to 2016. After Tsai was elected as Taiwan’s president in 2016, the CCP increased its pressure on the WHO to eject Taiwan. Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party oppose unification with mainland China.

A new bill, to make the WHO recognize Taiwan, has passed the House of Representatives and is waiting for approval from the Senate. Among the supporters are Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ariz.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). This bill was meant to augment the 2019 Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI), which has already been passed by Congress.

Call for Unity

When the 27 EU leaders met to discuss EU-China relations on Oct. 5, Nauseda implored them to transmit a message of “unity” in the face of CCP aggression.

Countries allow themselves to be coerced by the CCP because of the threat of economic sanctions. Developed countries, such as Germany and France, are dependent on China for trade, while less-wealthy nations, such as Greece and Hungary, cannot afford to lose Chinese investment.

Lithuania, by contrast, has very limited trade with China, and a senior Lithuanian official revealed to Politico that the country has invested ten times as much in China, as China has in Lithuania.

Now, Lithuania is experiencing CCP sanctions first hand, but is refusing to budge. Nauseda said that Lithuania, as a sovereign nation, has the right to decide its foreign policy.

“When it comes to China, Lithuania doesn’t have very much to lose,” said Una Aleksandra Berzina-Cerenkova, head of the China Studies Center at Riga Stradins University in neighboring Latvia.

Perhaps Lithuania could be a model for other countries, inspiring them to stand up against Beijing’s aggression and hegemonic ambition.

Read part 1 here.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Antonio Graceffo, Ph.D., has spent more than 20 years in Asia. He is a graduate of the Shanghai University of Sport and holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University. Graceffo works as an economics professor and China economic analyst, writing for various international media. Some of his books on China include "Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion" and "A Short Course on the Chinese Economy."