In retribution for the Baltic Republic’s decision to allow Taiwan to create a representative office in its name, China has nearly completely stopped importing Lithuanian goods. The failure to use the name Taipei, according to the Chinese government, is a violation of the one-China principle. For the Chinese Communist Party, the island is a rebel province that must be reunited with the motherland by force if necessary.


Beijing has taken coercive economic measures against Vilnius in addition to cutting diplomatic relations with Lithuania. Lithuanian exports to China declined by 91.4 per cent in a year in December, compared to 91.1 per cent in November, according to data released by the Chinese Customs Office.


Lithuanian commodities worth US$ 3.85 million were imported into China last month, compared to US$ 43 million the year before and US$ 42.8 million in November. In reality, China has completely excluded Lithuanian producers from its market. Officially, Chinese authorities maintain that they have not taken such action, but that the economic blockade is being carried out voluntarily by Chinese enterprises, who are ready to boycott any country whose policies endanger Chinese sovereignty. Recently, Lithuania’s President, Gitanas Nauseda, stated that it was a mistake to allow the Taiwanese embassy to open under a name that had been disputed by Beijing.


According to a poll, the Lithuanian government’s stance to China is unpopular in the Baltic country. Representatives from the ruling coalition in Vilnius, however, assured AsiaNews that the government’s position on Taiwan will not alter. Officially, the European Union supports Lithuania, but in practice, it has taken no action against China. The EU and many of its member countries do not want to jeopardise China’s trading relations. Chinese customs authorities are rejecting German, French, and Swedish items that contain components created in Lithuania, causing worry among German, French, and Swedish enterprises.


According to Reuters, German businesspeople and investors are urging Lithuanians to reach an agreement with the Chinese. In the meantime, the EU is biding its time. It has initiated an investigation to see whether China has committed any infractions that should be reported to the World Trade Organization. According to the South China Morning Post, European companies affected by Chinese reprisal are hesitant to collaborate, fearing increased pressure from Beijing.


France, the Union’s current presidency, has pledged to expedite the approval of an EU anti-coercion instrument to be used against trade intimidation such as China’s actions against Lithuania. However, the directive will take a long time to implement, and, as is customary in the EU, its application by individual states will need to be examined. Nonetheless, the number of EU member states pursuing closer ties with Taiwan is growing. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa declared lately that his country and Taiwan will establish representative offices in each other’s countries. Which name will be used remains to be seen. The new Czech government, which is harshly critical of China, appears poised to follow Lithuania’s lead and expand ties with Taipei.

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