President admits mistake, but will Lithuania correct mistake?
Published: Jan 05, 2022 10:50 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Since last year, Lithuania has been using the Taiwan question to gain the spotlight on the international stage. Without repenting, it has triggered a diplomatic crisis with China. 

On Tuesday, though, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said the country made a mistake when it allowed the island of Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius under the name "Taiwan." Nevertheless, it is yet to know if Vilnius will "correct the mistake." 

According to Lithuania's LRT English, Nausėda told the Žinių Radijas radio station, "I think it was not the opening of the Taiwanese office that was a mistake, but the name, which was not coordinated with me… I believe the name was the spark, and now we have to deal with the consequences."

But he went on and described China's response to Lithuania's provocation as "an attack, a kind of pressure on one of the EU countries."

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that other EU members are feeling the growing risk of being kidnapped by Lithuania in this regard. Lithuania's mea culpa aims at easing its way out of other EU countries' fury while trying to gain support from the bloc.

"The president made the statement for two reasons. First, there are different opinions from within Lithuania toward the government's maneuver over the Taiwan question, especially from industry and business circles that are severely influenced. Second, it has dissatisfied other EU states, because the development of the situation could drag China-EU relations into a bad place," Cui said, noting, "The problems between Lithuania and China are already spreading, casting a shadow on other EU states' ties with China."

Cui believes that Nausėda's remarks were not sincere but self-contradictory: If you admit to the mistake, what you should do is simply correct it - there is nothing to do with implying the EU should help. 

The Lithuanian government is having a hard time after it has engaged in so many bad moves. In December 2021, a poll of market and opinion research center Vilmorus showed that only 17.3 percent of Lithuania's population 18 years and older still trust their government. Politicians such as former president Valdas Adamkus and opposition party leaders Ramūnas Karbaukis and Vilija Blinkevičiūtė criticized Lithuania's China policy, calling it "unprofessional."

Nevertheless, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė recently said that China imposed inappropriate pressure on Lithuania after the establishment of the "Taiwanese Representative Office" in Lithuania, which doesn't deserve such a reaction. She previously said "this step does not mean any conflict or disagreement with the 'One China' policy."

No matter how the Lithuanian government's rhetoric is, naming a representative office with the name "Taiwan" is a violation of the one-China principle. Lithuania cannot muddle through by simply saying it is a mistake but failing to correct it. This will do no good to China-Lithuania relations, nor will it reduce the damage Vilnius has and will bring to itself and other EU states.

"Before China downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania, Nausėda said the two countries should talk to solve the problems. But such remarks are far from enough to make the Lithuanian government correct its wrongdoings. We don't accept the practice of saying good things while doing bad things," Cui noted.

Confucius said it is a fault if one errs but refuses to correct the mistakes. In terms of China-Lithuania relations' downward spiral, Vilnius holds no moral ground. If it still blindly continues while wishing to reap profits and compensation from the US through such moves, it will only face a path where it will feel more pain. Anyway, it is not that important for China whether Lithuania will wake up from its illusions sooner or later.