Lithuania won’t smoothen China ties by mere name change
Beijing must straighten out case with Vilnius over dangerous spillover
Published: Jan 26, 2022 11:33 PM
A citizen walks on the street in Siauliai, Lithuania, Nov. 6, 2021. The Lithuanian government has agreed to offer a one-off payment of 100 euros (116 U.S. dollars) to seniors aged 75 years and over who get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec.1 and those who take their booster shots by April 1, 2022. (Xinhua/Xue Dongmei)

A citizen walks on the street in Siauliai, Lithuania, Nov. 6, 2021. File Photo:Xinhua

Whether Lithuania seeks to change the name of the island of Taiwan's representative office in the country, the Baltic country has long overlooked the fact that the fundamental solution of smoothening frayed ties between Beijing and Vilnius is for the latter to acknowledge its mistake and eliminate the negative impact caused by its reckless actions, said Chinese experts, after media reported Lithuania was considering modifying the representation of the island of Taiwan.

Beijing will never settle for opportunistic tricks such as a mere name change, nor Lithuanian politicians' sugar-coated words; it needs real actions, observers noted.

Reuters quoted sources as saying on Tuesday that Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis proposed to the country's president last week to modify the Chinese version of the representation name to refer to the "Taiwan people," to defuse its row with Beijing. 

The change, which would bring the name in line with those used in Lithuanian and English, would need Taiwan's agreement, according to Reuters.

Taiwan authority said there has been no request to change the name. Local media also cited "sources" from Lithuania as saying that the Reuters report is not true. 

It does not matter if Lithuania seeks to change the name, because it is daydreaming to think that a mere name change would soothe bilateral ties. It failed or deliberately turned a blind eye to realize the fundamental blunder it made, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

Relations between China and Lithuania soured after the Baltic state allowed the island of Taiwan to open its so-called representative office in Lithuania in November, which China called a blatant violation of the one-China principle and international rules. China later downgraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania to the level of chargé d'affaires.

Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, also said at a Wednesday press conference that "we oppose any action that damages the one-China principle. Hopefully, Lithuania can take real action to right previous wrongs."

Lithuania's action defied the one-China principle. It needs more than an "opportunistic" tactic of a name change to fix the cracks, said Cui, noting that Lithuania needs to first acknowledge its mistakes, take real action to show its sincerity, and eliminate the negative impact on international society caused by Lithuania's own bungling act. 

After ties soured, Lithuania has been trying to hijack and lure the EU to take action against China. On January 14, EU foreign ministers met during an informal meeting to discuss the relationship between the EU and China. Instead, the meeting yielded a verbal support for Vilnius.

The spat has also split officials in Lithuania. President Gitanas Nauseda called the name a "mistake," while foreign ministry polling last month showed just 13 percent of Lithuanians backed the government's policy on China.

The Financial Times reported that US diplomats have also floated the idea of changing the name with Lithuanian officials. But the White House denied the report; and a spokesperson for the National Security Council even added that the US had told Lithuania that it would support its sovereign decisions.

The US has always been behind Lithuania to egg on the latter to make bad decisions, and push Lithuania to the frontline of conflicts with China, as well as losses, Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times. Observers noted that for Lithuania to realize its wrongdoing, it first needs to make decisions independent of the US. 

It seems that the Lithuanian case failed to teach a lesson, and a few other countries followed suit. Some politicians in Slovenia, Estonia and the Czech Republic also flirted with the idea of pulling closer ties with Taiwan authority. 

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa referred to Taiwan in an interview with Indian TV station Doordarshan last week as a "democratic country" and called Beijing's response to Lithuania's provocations "terrifying" and "ridiculous."

Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said later that the Chinese side is shocked by and strongly opposes the dangerous remarks by the Slovenian leader who flagrantly challenged the one-China principle and voiced support for "Taiwan independence."

If China fails to straighten out the case with Lithuania, and make it realize its mistake, the accident will have dangerous ramifications to other countries, who believe that small gestures could be made to defuse the conflict if they cross China's red line, said experts, noting such fantasy much be nipped in the bud.