OPINION / VIEWPOINT
Lithuania’s short-sighted moves won’t shake China-EU momentum
Published: May 26, 2021 10:18 AM
The China Post CR Express 1st block train is unloading in Vilnius, Lithuania, April 14, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

The "China Post" CR Express 1st block train is unloading in Vilnius, Lithuania, April 14, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

Lithuania, a small Baltic country with a population of less than 3 million, has rushed to the anti-China frontline. Lithuania's foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis announced on Saturday that Lithuania has dropped out of the 17+1 cooperation mechanism between China and Central and Eastern Europe Countries (CEECs). Two days ago, its parliament passed a resolution, groundlessly accusing China of committing genocide against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. 

"From our perspective, it is high time for the EU to move from a dividing 16+1 format to a more uniting and therefore much more efficient 27+1," Landsbergis said.

This in fact did not come as a surprise. As early as February, Lithuania was mulling leaving the mechanism with Landsbergis saying the cooperation program between Beijing and CEECs brought Lithuania "almost no benefits." It's also reported that Lithuania is planning to expand relations with island of Taiwan by opening an economic representative office in the island by the end of this year.  

The series of extreme and provocative actions taken by Lithuania are, without a doubt, driven by the US. Lithuania has gone too far that it has almost touched all the red lines of China, leaving itself no way out. Its moves are an act of completely taking sides with the US in politics. 

Any country with the consciousness of political independence won't be easily kidnapped by US interests. They will pay attention to strategic balance, carefully avoiding becoming embroiled into great power competitions and becoming a victim. But for the tiny Lithuania, very likely because US influence has deeply permeated its politics, it wrongly believes it could realize its interests by taking sides with the US. From the perspective of strategic balance, picking a side in a major power competition will cause harm to Lithuania's interests.   

But it should be noted that the US could easily draw Lithuania to its side because the latter is a small country and has long taken a pro-US stance. It's very unlikely other European countries, especially those in the Central and Eastern Europe, will follow Lithuania's suit. 

Lithuania urged other European Union members to "move from a dividing 16+1 format." The fact is that European countries that participate in the mechanism have reaped tangible interests from the China-CEECs cooperation. 

The 17+1 mechanism has advanced cooperation under the principle of voluntary consultation, joint contribution, openness and inclusiveness. According to Xinhua News Agency, China-CEEC trade expanded 8.4 percent year on year to $103.45 billion last year, bucking a trend of global downturn. Since the cooperation mechanism was launched in 2012, China-CEEC trade has increased 85 percent. It has logged a respectable average annual growth rate of 8 percent. The China-CEEC cooperation is showing vitality and resilience. Lithuania's withdrawal only demonstrates that the country has failed to grasp the general development trend of China-CEEC relations. This will adversely affect the country in the future in terms of foreign trade.

Some US and Western media outlets hyped Lithuania's pullout from the 17+1 mechanism as the latest indication of an increasingly "shaky relationship" between China and the European Union. It's ridiculous to presume the actions of a tiny Baltic state will affect the whole EU's attitude on China. The China and EU indeed are facing a dilemma in a series of cooperation fields. The dilemma is the so-called ideological confrontation. It particularly references that the EU is attempting to kidnap China-EU economic and trade relations with so-called human rights diplomacy. But China has the initiative in its relations with the EU. More importantly, China-EU relations have many cornerstones that won't be easily shaken. 

The 17+1 is a platform for voluntary participation and cooperation. Withdrawing from the mechanism is Lithuania's choice, but it's a shortsighted decision - it will pay a high price for this in the long run. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that China-CEEC cooperation won't be affected by sporadic incidents. Lithuania has overestimated itself in finding fault with China. It wants to become an anti-China vanguard, but will likely end up being a cannon fodder. 

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Yu Jincui based on an interview with Gao Jian, a scholar at Shanghai International Studies University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
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