On Jan. 4, an MP of the Lithuanian government, Gitanas Nausėda, claimed that his country supports the democratic government of the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan against the increasingly hostile communist government of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), stating that they would not stand for authoritarian rule of a democratic state.
However, Lithuanian president Gitana Nauseda seemingly expressed his doubts about how the statement was shared, worried that the MP’s declaration could lead to consequences between the communist nation and the Eastern European state.
Confusion amongst the leadership
In the midst of his country’s supposed opposition to the CCP, President Nauseda stated that it was a mistake to allow Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius – a decision made last year, which caused an uproar from Beijing.
According to Nauseda, while the two governments can open representative offices without “diplomatic status”, the usage of the name was the problem, which has had serious ramifications on Lituanian-Chinese relations.
“I think it was not the opening of the Taiwanese office that was a mistake, but the name, which was not coordinated with me,” he told a local radio station.
Taiwan representative offices have all been using the name of Taipei, honoring an international commitment to respect Beijing’s “One-China” policy. Even though the ROC has declared itself a self-governing entity since 1949, the CCP continues to claim the island of Taiwan as its own territory.
Beijing’s foreign ministry said that Nauseda recognizing the mistake was a right step, but emphasized that the “excuses did not help solve the problem.”
While Nauseda and the Lithuanian government respect the “One-China” policy, they still justify their right to establish ties with the ROC.
In response to the opening of the representative Taiwanese embassy, Beijing withdrew its ambassador from Lithuania and undermined its diplomatic ties with the state.
“The Chinese government had to lower diplomatic relations between the two countries… to safeguard its sovereignty and the basic norms of international relations,” Beijing’s foreign ministry said, adding that, “The Lithuanian government must bear all consequences that arise from this.”
Moreover, the ministry added that Lithuania “abandoned the political commitment made upon the establishment of diplomatic relations” with China.
Beijing also imposed an import sanction on Lithuania, blocking imports from entering the communist nation and threatening to target global supply chains. The CCP also accused the U.S. of “inciting” Lithuania, after Washington officials shared their support for the European nation “in the face of Chinese economic pressure.”
Echoes of a controlling past
According to Matas Maldeikis MP, chairman of the Lithuanian legislature’s Group on Parliamentary Relations with Taiwan, in an interview with Breibart, Nauseda’s comments are “nothing more than a battle of egos” between him and Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, whom the former ordered to “de-escalate” the situation.
Landsbergis insisted that he consulted with the president regarding the naming of the Taiwanese office.
Regardless, Maldeikis assured that, while Nauseda and Landsbergis’ “battle of egos” may create “a leadership struggle”, it would not affect Lithuania’s support for Taiwan.
“It has nothing to do with Taiwan, it’s a question of internal politics between the President’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Maldeikis said. “It’s not about our stance on China or our other commitments.”
When it came to Lithuania’s stance on China, Maldeikis said that it is “imperative” that his nation stands up against authoritarianism, and aid democracies to prevent them from suffering the same fate as Lithuania itself did during the occupations of both Nazi Germany (1941 – 1945) and the Soviet Union (1940 – 1941; 1944 – 1990) during the 20th century.
“We don’t want to get to the situation like in the 1940s where authoritarian regimes – then it was Stalin and Hitler – decide our fate behind closed doors,” he said.
Maldeikis also said that it is vital to show the Lithuanian people that opposing the CCP is “not only a moral endeavor but one that can be a ‘win-win situation’”, hoping for increased trade and job opportunities for the citizens.
Maldeikis also anticipated the import sanctions China launched after the opening of the Taiwanese office, but he was also surprised that the CCP also focused its outrage on the European Union (EU) altogether.
Other than Lithuania, other EU countries like Sweden, France, and especially Germany, were also hit by import sanctions, as well as blockades on products that were made with Lithuanian parts.
“The problem is that they are also pressing our European partners, mostly in terms of German business, which is a serious thing,” Maldeikis said. “It’s a big challenge for us, I won’t lie, because German business is very important for us, and we hope that our stance on China won’t impact the business relations in the EU market.”
During the chancellorship of Angela Merkel in Germany, its economy was reliant on cheap labor from China as companies like Volkswagen, BMW and Hugo Boss shifted production to the Asian nation. As such, these companies and more are accused of “profiting off the backs of slave labor” in Xinjiang, China, where millions of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are believed to have been arrested and detained in “re-education” camps
Maldeikis also affirmed that opinion of China in other capitals has been damaged in recent years as the CCP continues to enforce “rapid” changes that has since completely changed the country for the worse.
The EU also ceased a massive investment pact with China, which aimed to “increase trade between the bloc and China” by 120 billion euros ($136 million). However, Olaf Scholz, Germany’s current chancellor, assured CCP leader Xi Jinping that Germany would “rekindle the deal” and have it “take effect as soon as possible.”
France, as the new leading representative of the EU Council, requested Belgium to implement a proposed “anti-coercion instrument” to aid Lithuania in its economy after China’s sanctions.
Maldeikis also said that “Xi Jinping has dusted off the authoritarian playbook” as China faces new problems within its borders.
On the other hand, Lithuania has received support from Taiwan as the island government set up a $200 million fund to assist the Baltic nation’s economic problems due to the CCP’s attacks.
A leader of a delegation of the Baltic States to Taiwan earlier in 2021, Maldeikis believes that, should Taiwan help bring prosperity to Lithuania, it will be a “crack into Europe” and bring more opportunities of cooperation. He is also known to love Taiwanese pineapples – also a product banned in China.
Fellow Lithuanian MP Dovile Sakaliene of the Social Democratic Party in the Lituanian Parliament, said that the country will not be “intimidated” by the CCP in response to the Taiwanese representative office’s naming.