In a recent development over escalating tensions between China and Lithuania, the communist regime has suspended all imports of beef, beer and dairy from the Baltic nation.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) General Administration of Customs said the suspension was due to a “lack of documentation” and said the ban would take effect on Feb. 9.
The agency typically halts imports of meat if exporting nations report outbreaks of disease in their livestock. However, Lithuania has not reported any animal disease to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in recent years, raising suspicions that the ban is a form of retaliation for the country’s support of Taiwan — a democratically governed de facto country that Beijing claims as part of the PRC.
After Lithuania’s decision to open a Taiwan representative office in its capital of Vilnius in November 2021, the PRC has begun calling for a corporate boycott of Lithuanian goods. The small Baltic nation is home to less than 3 million people.
As retaliation for the warming diplomatic relations between the two, Chinese authorities not only cracked down on Lithuanian imports but also on goods from other EU countries — such as France, Germany and Sweden — that included parts from Lithuanian supply chains.
The mainland Chinese regime sees Taiwan (officially called the Republic of China) as a renegade province. Though Beijing has indicated its preference for a peaceful “unification,” it does not rule out military force and has vowed to reclaim the island by any means necessary.
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The ban comes after the U.K. announced on Feb. 7 that it would join the United States and Australia in supporting an EU case at the World Trade Organization over Beijing’s arbitrary trade sanctions on Lithuanian imports.
“China’s own customs statistics report a 91% drop in trade from Lithuania to China in December 2021 as compared to December 2020,” the EU said in a statement.
This isn’t the first time China has used trade restrictions and penalties against other countries deemed to have acted against its interests. In December 2020, Beijing placed curbs on billions of dollars of Australian exports, including beef, barley and wine after Canberra called for an “independent international inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Nathan Attrill, a lecturer on China’s foreign policy at the Australian National University, told Reuters that Beijing viewed its economic and trade leverage as its “most important tool in its international statecraft.”
“The degree to which they will be successful will largely come down to two factors: how exposed are a country’s exports to the Chinese market, and how quickly could a country find an alternative market,” Attrill said.
Beijing: Lithuania needs to ‘correct mistakes’
PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declined to elaborate on the beef suspension during a daily press briefing, but said Lithuania should “correct its mistakes,” an apparent reference to the country’s support of Taiwan.
“What Lithuania should do is face up to facts, redress its own mistakes, and come back to the right track of adhering to the one China principle, instead of confusing right with wrong,” Zhao said, referring to China’s policy demanding other countries recognize its claim to Taiwan.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou condemned the bans, calling the decision “unilateral” and criticized Beijing’s decision to arbitrarily change foreign policy over diplomatic disputes.
Mainland China is the world’s top importer of beef, buying approximately 2.36 million tons of it each year. In 2021, it imported 775 tons of beef from Lithuania, according to PRC customs data.