Why is one of the smallest EU countries in serious conflict with one of the world’s leading economies.
The conflict between Lithuania and China – one of the smallest EU countries with one of the leading economies in the world – continues. The European Union and the United States discussed the response to tough economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed by Beijing. The parties came to the conclusion that the Chinese restrictions affect not only Lithuania. Correspondent.net tells the details.
Further from China – closer to the USA
EU chief of diplomacy Josep Borrell and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken discussed the restrictions from China this week. As reported in Brussels, Beijing’s sanctions against Vilnius affect the trade of both other EU countries and the United States.
“The head of diplomacy and the secretary of state discussed the growing consequences of China’s unilateral actions, which, according to available data, seriously impede trade not only with Lithuania, but also affect companies from other EU member states, as well as the United States,” the European External Action Service said in a 22 December.
Borrell noted that the European Union will jointly resist political pressure and measures against any of the EU members.
A week earlier, the head of the Pentagon Lloyd Austin said that the United States would help strengthen the armed forces of Lithuania. Among the reasons for this decision, he named the increasing pressure from China.
“I thank your government for its firm policy towards China, and we know that you have been punished for your decisions of principle,” Austin said.
Among the principal decisions that the US Secretary of Defense spoke about was the opening in Vilnius of a representative office of Taiwan, one of Washington’s main allies in Asia. Although it does not have official diplomatic status, it provides consular services.
In addition, Lithuania became the only EU country to join the diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games in China initiated by the United States. Vilnius previously recognized genocide of Uyghursannounced in Washington.
In mainland China, which considers Taiwan to be its breakaway province, the move has been criticized and said it violates an agreement on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two sides and “seriously undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the PRC.
“There is only one China in the world, Taiwan is an integral part of China’s territory. We demand that the Lithuanian side immediately correct its erroneous decision … Lithuania is to blame, it will have to pay for what it has done,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said …
The historical roots of the “one China” policy go back to the results of the civil war in the country where, after the victory in 1949, the communists came to power, and the losing leadership of the Kuomintang party fled to Taiwan. The island became a breakaway province of the Chinese state. About this in detail in the material. How China fell out with Lithuania.
In August, China recalled its ambassador to Vilnius and invited Lithuania to take mirror measures. The Lithuanian ambassador was recalled in September. In addition, China has suspended freight rail transport to Lithuania, as well as the issuance of permits for the export of food products.
After the opening of the Taiwanese mission, China downgraded diplomatic relations with Lithuania to the level of a chargé d’affaires and changed the status of its diplomatic mission in Vilnius from an embassy to a mission.
Amid aggravated relations, Chinese media outlets, including the Global Times, which broadcasts Beijing’s position in English, erupted with angry articles about Lithuania. In one of the materials, Lithuania is called “a tiny, distraught country, seized by geopolitical fears.”
Chinese media emphasize that it is the most anti-Russian country in Europe. Therefore, Moscow and Beijing should unite and punish it roughly.
“China and Russia need to jointly deal a strong blow to the US henchmen in order to teach a lesson to other states. This should serve as a new link in Russian-Chinese strategic cooperation,” the Global Times article says.
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Office of the State Council of China for Taiwan, linked Lithuania’s policy with the US’s intention to increase support for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party on the island and personally for President Tsai Ing-wen. The situation around Taiwan is detailed in the material. War at any moment.
Consequences of Chinese pressure on Lithuania
Since December, China has removed Lithuania from its electronic system of customs declaration of goods entering the country. In practice, this means that Lithuanian entrepreneurs could not clear customs for their goods in China.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielyus Landsbergis said at the time that he expects support from the European Union in blocking Lithuanian cargo by China, since Lithuania itself is unable to exclude Chinese enterprises from European customs systems.
“This is an unprecedented case when sanctions are partially imposed on one of the EU states. We cannot impose retaliatory sanctions, because we are unable to delete this or that Chinese enterprise from the customs system. Customs systems are regulated by the European Commission,” he explained.
On December 7, the head of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, Ricardas Sartatavicius, announced that the country’s enterprises had been returned to the Chinese customs system. However, the export of Chinese goods from the ports of the PRC to Lithuania remained limited, and the Chinese continued to slow down the orders of Lithuanian importers.
Literally a week later, Reuters, citing sources, reported that the Chinese government demanded that the German company Continental, which is one of the largest manufacturers of tires and auto parts in the world, refuse to use Lithuanian-made components.
Continental has factories in Lithuania producing door and seat controllers. The company itself declined to comment on this information, probably fearing an even greater aggravation.
Apparently, the Continental case is part of a large-scale campaign by the PRC authorities. The Federal Association of German Industries, the main organization of the German business community, told Reuters that products from other German exporters containing Lithuanian-made components were banned.
At the same time, Beijing is seeking to prevent the supply of parts and equipment made in China to Lithuanian subsidiaries of German companies.
However, so far, the potential losses of Lithuania are minimal. In 2019, when the conflict was just beginning, China ranked 25th in Lithuanian exports and ninth in imports. This volume, according to Lithuanian politicians, can be replaced by cooperation with Taiwan.
It is now difficult for Lithuania to count on Chinese investments. But by losing this money, Vilnius is gaining support from the United States and NATO allies. In conditions of tension on the Belarusian border and the proximity of Russia, Baltic politicians now value this union more.