Dispute over Taiwan: China puts Lithuania under pressure

Lithuania is forging closer ties with Taiwan – and this is making China angry. The country has already withdrawn its ambassador from Vilnius – and now freight trains that usually travel from China to Lithuania have apparently been stopped.

China’s state-run newspaper “Global Times” has been running a smear campaign against Lithuania for several weeks: China’s leaders should cooperate with Russia and punish the Baltic country, the propaganda newspaper demands in an editorial. And: Lithuania will pay a price for its rapprochement with Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the anti-Lithuanian rhetoric has apparently turned into concrete action. According to reports in the usually well-informed Hong Kong daily “South China Morning Post,” China’s state railroads have stopped certain freight trains that usually travel directly to Lithuania from the People’s Republic.

There is no official confirmation of this, however, Chinese state media have threatened that such an economic penalty may soon occur.

Ambassador already withdrawn

In protest against open criticism from Vilnius, China withdrew its ambassador from Lithuania two weeks ago. At the same time, the Lithuanian ambassador to China was expelled from the country.

The communist leadership is particularly angry about the fact that Lithuania’s right-wing liberal government repeatedly addresses human rights violations in China and about the fact that it has established political contacts with Taiwan. Earlier this month, the Lithuanian government announced that it would open a trade office in Taiwan, after Taiwan, for its part, had already set up such an office in Vilnius.

Lithuania had also withdrawn from the 17+1 roundtable, a cooperation format China has with Eastern and Central European countries.

Claim to Taiwan

China’s leadership considers Taiwan part of the People’s Republic, although the island never has been. States that engage with Taiwan at a high-level political level are punished by China’s leadership.

Over the weekend, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis spoke with his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken about the issue. They condemned the “aggressive behavior” of the Chinese leadership as absolutely unacceptable. The European Union and the German government have so far largely kept a low profile in the conflict.