Lithuanian govt faces growing domestic opposition over anti-China policy
Published: Jan 13, 2022 12:11 AM
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis file photo:VCG

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis file photo:VCG

Growing opposition among Lithuanian politicians is tearing apart its government over the country's wrong move of allowing the opening of a "Taiwan representative office," with the opposition party leader urging its foreign minister to step down, and Chinese observers said that the opposition will dominate politics in the Baltic country and may eventually change the name of the office.

Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas said the Foreign Ministry failed to predict China's strong response to such anti-China policy, saying that before deepening ties with the Taiwan region, the Foreign Ministry considered possible "retaliation" from China, but did not expect Beijing to go after Lithuania's trading partners in Europe, Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT) reported on Monday.

Also on Monday, Vilija Blinkeviciute, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party (LSDP), said Lithuania, in cooperation with EU members and international partners, could consider renaming the representative office to reduce tensions with China. She urged Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis to step down, saying the reckless decision to clash with China was a big mistake that all Lithuanian people are paying for, local media reported. 

The opposition voices came one week after the Lithuanian president called its government's decision to allow a "Taiwan representative office" in Vilnius a mistake.

Liu Zuokui, a research fellow on European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the game between different voices in Lithuania reflects a game between China and the US, and the opposition voices are more likely to take hold which will build strong pressure on the government. 

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that the Lithuanian government may name a new foreign minister to appease domestic critics. 

Landsbergis handed in his resignation on December 10, 2021 over Belarus sanctions, but the resignation was not accepted by the prime minister. Cui said the prime minister may accept his resignation if he submits again. 

As to whether current government members will be impeached, Chinese observers said there is no sign of that yet, but they would face the possibility of impeachment if the government "made more mistakes."

No matter whether government members will be removed, the Baltic country will eventually correct its mistake over the "Taiwan office," after realizing that the support from the US or Taiwan island can hardly meet its long-term needs, Sun Keqin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

But in the short term, Taiwan island and the US will not stop offering lip service or insignificant help, observers said. On Tuesday, Taiwan announced a $1 billion credit program to help fund joint projects between Lithuanian and Taiwan island companies. 

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at Wednesday's media briefing that Taiwan authorities' attempt to expand the space for secessionist activities by relying on monetary diplomacy is doomed to fail.

Taiwan has yet to decide on specific projects, but Lithuania is most interested in potential investments in the semiconductor, laser and biotechnology sectors, according to Lithuanian Economy Minister Ausrine Armonaite, the LRT reported. 

However, Chinese semiconductor insiders questioned the feasibility of developing semiconductors in the country, saying Lithuania does not have the talent or huge national financial support needed to develop the industry.

Taiwan's proposed investment is a drop in the ocean compared to what a full-scale plant would require, according to Politico.

Taiwan semiconductor TSMC's factory in Arizona, which will go into production by 2024, requires an investment of $12 billion, the report said.