Taiwan’s representative office in Lithuania was officially established on Thursday (November 18) in Vilnius, the capital of the country. Since this is the first time that Taiwan has set up an office under the name of “Taiwanese Representative Office” in a non-diplomatic country, it is regarded as a diplomatic victory by Taiwan.
At a regular press conference on Friday (November 19), Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian criticized the Lithuanian government’s move as creating “one China, one Taiwan” in the world and “damaging China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, and stressed that China will take action. “All necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and all consequences arising therefrom shall be the responsibility of the Lifang.”
The last time Taiwan set up a representative office in a European country was the representative office in Slovakia 18 years ago.
“Taiwan Representative Office” established
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ou Jiang’an told Taiwan media on the 18th that Taiwan’s first representative in Lithuania will be the current Taiwan representative in Latvia Huang Junyao. Ou Jiangan said that the two sides have huge potential for cooperation in various industries such as semiconductors, lasers, and financial technology.
According to the Taiwan Central News Agency, at the age of 89, Vytautas Landsbergis (Vytautas Landsbergis), the first head of state who led Lithuania to independence from the former Soviet Union in 1990 and called the “Father of the Nation” by the country, also made a high-profile visit to the Taiwan representative office. Congratulations, he is the grandfather of Lance Burgess, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen posted in English on Twitter, “This marks an important step forward for our democratic partnership, laying the foundation for closer Taiwan-Lithuanian cooperation.”
At a regular press conference on Friday (19th), Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian criticized the Lithuanian government for “blatantly violating the one-China principle, betraying the Lithuanian’s political commitment in the communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and grossly interfering in China. The internal affairs are extremely bad in nature.” He emphasized that China will take “all necessary measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and all consequences arising from this will be the responsibility of the Lifang.”
He said: “We ask the Lifang to correct the wrong decision immediately. We also warn the Taiwan authorities that they have miscalculated and are doomed to fail. As for the necessary measures China will take, we can wait and see. Blame it for yourself, it will surely reap the consequences.”
Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of China, said at a press conference on Friday (19th) that China resolutely opposes and will resolutely crack down on various attempts by the Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party to seek “independence”. She criticized the Tsai Ing-wen’s government for “using various banners internationally to undermine the one-China principle and split the country. Its tricks include setting up relevant institutions, changing relevant names, wooing and infiltrating dignitaries in relevant countries, weaving lies, spreading Taiwan independence speech, etc. “.
In response to China’s fierce protests, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that Lithuania will seek to strengthen diplomatic relations with Indo-Pacific.
“We believe that the economic relationship with democratic countries can be more sustainable and lasting, because this relationship is more based on the rule of law, and therefore will be more in line with the interests of Lithuania,” Landsbergis said. “We seek peace with all of Asia. The Indo-Pacific region has established closer relations. Lithuania has only recently opened an embassy in Australia, and will also set up an embassy in South Korea, and may set up a representative office in Taipei in the future.”
Former Taiwan diplomat and director of the International Department of Times Force Liu Shijie said that this move was a major setback for Xi Jinping’s diplomacy. He said that Lithuania has formal diplomatic relations with China. This time, “to withstand the pressure of the Chinese Communist Party, the support from the United States is very important”.
Taiwanese public opinion began to assess whether Lithuania would be the first door for Taiwan’s diplomacy to enter the EU formally? In the future, can Taiwan’s offices in European countries be gradually changed to the “Taiwanese Representative Office” with a quasi-official meaning? Liu Shijie said that this possibility exists, but it has not yet arrived overnight.
Changes in the relationship between China and Lithuania
Lithuania declared independence after the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1990, and immediately joined the European Union, the United Nations and other organizations. Over the years, Lithuania and China have been cooperating after the establishment of diplomatic relations. In addition to signing the “Belt and Road” cooperation memorandum, they have also joined the “17+1” trade mechanism for cooperation between Central and Eastern Europe and China.
However, since 2019, relations between the two countries have taken a turn for the worse. Lithuania listed China as a security threat for the first time. The Congress adopted solidarity with Hong Kong to counter the Chinese demonstrations and condemned China’s “genocide” of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
In August 2021, the country allowed Taiwan to set up a representative office with the name “Taiwan”. Beijing immediately announced the recall of its ambassador to Lithuania and asked the other party to also recall its ambassador to China in protest.
But at that time, the United States and the European Union decided to support Lithuania. The US State Department condemned Beijing for “retaliating” Lithuania, while the European Union believed that Taiwan’s establishment of a representative office in Lithuania did not violate the European Union’s “One China” policy.
According to analysis, Lithuania, a small Baltic country with a population of only about 2.8 million people, will cause China’s diplomatic retaliation for opening close contacts with Taiwan.
The critic Kontantin Eggert told Deutsche Welle that on the one hand Lithuania refused to cooperate with Beijing on many issues, and on the other hand, it also expressed its intention to develop trade with Taiwan. As a member of the European Union, Lithuania required great courage to do so. .
He pointed out that the reason why Lithuania, a small EU country with a middle income level, is so keen to challenge superpowers such as China or Russia is due to Lithuania’s history. Lithuanians have learned lessons from the country’s history, especially the tragic history of the annexation of the three small Baltic states in the 20th century by Stalin (Stalin).
Egert said that the most important lesson that this history has brought to Lithuania is: “Facing an autocratic regime, the most important political capital of a small country is respect. If you want to win the respect of the other side, you must show your position and pay the price for it. Preparation.”
How does Taiwan generally set up representative offices in non-diplomatic countries?
Taipei currently has 15 diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and a total of 110 offices in 72 countries, of which 57 countries have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Organizations established in non-diplomatic countries are generally established under the name “Taipei”, such as the Taipei Representative Office in the UK, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Australia.
Somaliland (Somaliland) in Africa is the only exception before Lithuania, and is called Taiwan’s representative office in the Republic of Somaliland. However, Somaliland itself is not recognized by China and other UN member states as its sovereignty. Taiwan and Somaliland decided to only establish representative offices when they established diplomatic relations in February 2020. They have not yet established diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level.
On July 20 this year, Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Zhaoxie announced that it would set up a “Taiwan Representative Office in Lithuania” in Vilnius, becoming the first representative office named “Taiwan” established by Taiwan in a European country. Lithuania also announced that it will set up a representative office in Taipei.
Taiwan officials say that the main purpose is to expand mutually beneficial cooperation in economy, trade, science and technology, education, and culture.
On February 4, 2021, Taiwan and Guyana, a South American country, announced the establishment of mutual representative offices. The local representative office of Taiwan was called the “Taiwan Representative Office.” However, Guyana announced its withdrawal plan in less than 24 hours. Due to China’s pressure, it unilaterally announced the termination of the establishment agreement.”