Let’s have a frank talk about Lithuania over Taiwan question: Global Times editorial
Published: Nov 21, 2021 10:50 PM
Gambling on crumbs from the US' table Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Gambling on crumbs from the US' table Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

China on Sunday announced the downgrading of diplomatic relations with Lithuania to the level of charge d'affaires. This is a clear response to the launch of the so-called "Taiwan representative office" in Lithuania despite China's opposition. This is also a warning that if Lithuania takes further destructive actions on the Taiwan question, China may sever diplomatic relations entirely. 

An ambassador is accredited to the receiving country's head of state, while a charge d'affaires is accredited to the foreign minister. The last time China downgraded its diplomatic relations to the level of charge d'affaires was in 1981. The target country was the Netherlands and the cause was also the Taiwan question.

In our opinion, although Beijing's retaliatory actions toward Lithuania are severe, the statement of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs still maintains diplomatic respect for this impertinent country that undermines the morality and rules between countries. When explaining the reasons for downgrading diplomatic relations, China used very standardized language, including that Lithuania's act "openly creates the false impression of 'one China, one Taiwan' in the world" and "undermines China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and grossly interferes in China's internal affairs." If a major European power makes similar mistakes on Taiwan-related matters, China will likely make the same statement.

China's state behavior and diplomatic language are proper, but this does not affect people's intuitive understanding and feelings on this matter. Lithuania is a small country. Is it even qualified to spoil the situation and stir up trouble with China? The country's population is not even as large as that of Chaoyang district in Beijing. It is just a mouse, or even a flea, under the feet of a fighting elephant.

It will not matter much for China's overall diplomacy even if China breaks off diplomatic relations with such a small, unscrupulous country and let it go to establish so-called "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan. The island for now maintains so-called "full diplomatic relations" with only 15 countries, dropping from 22 when Tsai Ing-wen took office in May 2016. As most of them are tiny countries, what harm would it bring to China even if Lithuania is added to the list?

China used to pay more attention to harmony, although lately this is less valued by China in the wake of increasing troubles started by Western lawmakers, and by Lithuania in particular. Such non-mainstream forces will no longer receive so much attention as time goes on. Since the US insists on regarding China as an adversary and some forces in the European Parliament are stirring the pot to extort from China, we will definitely prioritize China's substantive interests instead of superficial and marginal aspects during diplomatic contact with the West.

We believe that neither the US nor Europe can afford to surrender their practical interests in relations with China, nor are they willing to engage in a fierce strategic confrontation with China. We should let them be since Western countries are keen on ideological provocations and making troubles in various procedures. As it is difficult to change the general framework of their relations with China, these countries are more like in a contest of challenging China, but it will have limited impact on China.

After the US administration before Joe Biden went too far in its dealings with China, Biden's administration has to be restrained in some areas. European governments will need to fight with the European Parliament over how to deal with China, because they only have limited resources to back their unbridled actions against China. 

After Lithuania allowed the island of Taiwan to open its so-called representative office in the country, the Chinese government announced it is downgrading its diplomatic relations with Lithuania. This is tantamount to setting a standard: No matter which European country follows suit in the future, it will at least have to bear such a consequence. Lithuania's move could only cause very small damage to China, which is not worth a change to our whole policy toward the Taiwan Straits. But if the island's collusion with external forces gets out of control and it greatly adds costs for the Chinese mainland to maintain the one-China principle, then we will naturally make major adjustments to our policy toward the Taiwan Straits, including resorting to military means to resolve the Taiwan question at once. 

In an era in which the mainland's strength is seeing rapid growth, there is no room for Taiwan island to achieve a "diplomatic victory." Nor will there be an opportunity for trivial forces like Lithuania to lead the Western world to shake the one-China principle. People need to see through this. How to deal with Lithuania's performances that overestimate itself entirely depends on Beijing's comprehensive considerations, including the latter's mood.