Lithuania became the first country in Europe to allow self-ruled Taiwan to open a de facto embassy under the name "Taiwan."
Washington [US], January 31 (ANI): The spat between Lithuania and China has pulled European Union (EU) interests in Beijing's treatment of Lithuania as a threat to other EU nations.
Luke McGee, writing in CNN, said that Brussels is taking a more hardline stance on China, though there are reservations about whether doing so could prompt Beijing to retaliate in the form of trade wars or cancelled investments in Europe.
On Thursday, the EU launched a case against China at the World Trade Organization, accusing Beijing of "discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania, which are also hitting other exports from the EU's Single Market."
The WTO case could be just the start of the EU taking a more hardline stance on China, though there are reservations about whether doing so could prompt Beijing to retaliate in the form of trade wars or cancelled investments in Europe, said Mc Gee.
Brussels sees Beijing's treatment of Lithuania as a threat to other EU nations, many of whom have deeper economic links with China and would like to deepen them further.
Earlier, tiny European country Lithuania withdrew from the so-called "17+1" group, a forum in which 17 eastern and central European countries engage with China, before encouraging others to do the same. Then in November, Lithuania became the first country in Europe to allow self-ruled Taiwan to open a de facto embassy under the name "Taiwan."
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said the opening of the Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius would "charter a new and promising course for bilateral relations between Taiwan and Lithuania."
The move enraged Beijing, which saw it as an affront to its "One China" principle that insists Taiwan is part of China, rather than an independent sovereign territory, despite the two sides having been governed separately for over seven decades after a civil war, said McGee. As a rule, those who want a relationship with China must recognize the policy diplomatically.
Lithuania says the new Taiwan office does not have formal diplomatic status and does not conflict with its One China policy. But Beijing reacted by immediately downgrading diplomatic relations with Vilnius.
Lithuania also claimed that China has prevented Lithuanian goods from entering China, effectively creating a trade barrier. The Chinese government has repeatedly rejected these claims, blaming Lithuania for harming China's "core interest" and sending bilateral ties to a deep freeze.
Taiwan reacted by buying up Lithuanian produce that was destined for China — including 20,400 bottles of rum — and pledging to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Lithuanian industry to support the country in the face of Chinese pressure.
Brussels recently proposed a legal mechanism that would allow the EU to respond to economic intimidation in a "structured and uniform manner" by using a "tailor-made and proportional response for each situation", which could include tariffs, restricting imports and limiting access to the EU's internal market, reported CNN. But many of the smaller EU nations are privately sceptical that their fellow member states — especially those who trade extensively with China — would back them when push comes to shove.
Brussels has been getting its act together on geopolitical matters lately. After years of bitter backbiting, it may be that Brexit and the pandemic have reminded EU leaders that unity in areas of mutual interest means even small nations like Lithuania can use the mechanics of the EU to stand up to one of the richest, most powerful nations on earth, China. (ANI)