As of: 01/22/2022 3:03 p.m
Because of its Taiwan policy, Lithuania has been deleted from China’s commercial register. While German companies are caught between the fronts in the supply chain, another EU country wants to follow suit.
For the Chinese side it is clear: the red line has been crossed. Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, made this clear again this week: “The Lithuanian side has stubbornly advocated the establishment of a ‘Taiwanese representative office in Lithuania’, blatantly naming ‘Taiwan’ alongside ‘China’ and giving the false impression of ‘a China, one Taiwan.” This is a serious violation of the one-China principle,” he complained, adding that Lithuania was “going it alone and trying to hold EU-China relations hostage.” That is irresponsible and extremely dangerous: “The EU should be very vigilant. We hope that the EU can distinguish between right and wrong.”
While China officially declares in the same breath that it does not want to put other countries under political or economic pressure under any circumstances, in reality this is exactly what is happening: China has removed Lithuania from the official customs database as if the country did not exist at all. That means: China no longer allows products from Lithuania into the country, container ships are damming up. This has consequences beyond China’s and Lithuania’s trade relations.
“Supply chains are being questioned”
German and French companies are caught between the fronts – such as the German car parts suppliers Continental and Hella, which manufacture components in Lithuania. According to his own statements, Jörg Wuttke, President of the European Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, has never seen such a radical step by China – finds the development worrying. “Of course, as business people, we have suddenly become politicized,” he says. “Supply chains are being questioned and the fact that Lithuanian products have recently disappeared from customs must of course make Brussels and the member states, the capitals, have simultaneous coordination.” “Interference in the internal affairs of the EU” cannot be tolerated.
Wuttke also criticizes Lithuania’s unilateral effort to open a representative office that officially bears the name of Taiwan. It was not necessary to provoke Beijing with this, especially since the EU does not recognize Taiwan diplomatically and usually names Taiwanese representations after Taiwan’s capital, Taipei.
Taiwan pledges support to Lithuania
In response to the economic boycott, the EU is now collecting evidence for proceedings at the World Trade Organization (WHO). However, such a process can take several years.
Taiwan, meanwhile, has offered support to companies in Lithuania. That should take the pressure off. The US has also pledged its support to Lithuania and the European Union on several occasions.
The EU is now under pressure to position itself – again between the chairs in the competition between China and the USA. “It is also a certain dilemma what has been created there,” explains Doris Fischer, Professor of China Business and Economics at the University of Würzburg. “Peking also knows that when in doubt – that Lithuania has pushed ahead with an action. But of course we don’t have a common foreign policy in many areas. As far as I know, there is no obligation for a country to have a foreign policy previously in To ask Brussels: May I do that? In this respect, this case is indeed a test for European foreign policy.”
Slovenia wants to emulate Lithuania
This week, another EU member state announced plans to strengthen its ties with Taiwan: Slovenia. Much to Beijing’s annoyance, Long Jing, a researcher at the Center for European Studies at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, explains: “What Lithuania did prompted other countries like Slovenia to do the same.”
The Chinese government therefore sees itself forced to take a firm stance against this “so that more countries in Europe don’t come up with the same idea”.