China downgrades diplomatic ties with Lithuania for what amounted to recognizing Taiwan

Flag of Taiwan. (Photo courtesy: AP)

(, Nov21’21) – In a setback to China’s campaign to isolate Taiwan by poaching its few remaining diplomatic partners with promises of aid and investment, Lithuania has allowed Taipei to formally open on Nov 18 an office in its capital, using the name Taiwan. Angered by this somewhat of a reverse development, China has officially downgraded its diplomatic ties with Vilnius to the “charge d’affaires” level. The “charge d’affaires” ranks one below the ambassador.

Lithuania’s allowing Taipei to formally open an office using the name Taiwan was a significant diplomatic departure that defied a pressure campaign by Beijing, which tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the global stage, noted the Nov 21.

“The Chinese government had to lower diplomatic relations between the two countries… in order to safeguard its sovereignty and the basic norms of international relations,” said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement Nov 21.

Taiwan announced that it would open the office in July, its first new diplomatic outpost in Europe in 18 years. It prompted a fierce rebuke by China, which withdrew its ambassador to Lithuania and demanded Vilnius do the same, which it eventually did. China also halted freight trains to Lithuania and stopped issuing food export permits.

China asserts that there is only one China, namely the People’s Republic of China, rejecting Taiwan’s claim to represent the Republic of China, which preceded the communist ruled China, or any assertion of its independence as “Taiwan”.

It has accused Lithuania of having “abandoned the political commitment made upon the establishment of diplomatic relations” with China, referring to the “One China policy” where countries officially recognise the Chinese government over that of Taiwan.

The Chinese foreign ministry statement sought to make it clear that “the Lithuanian government must bear all consequences that arise from this” development.

China baulks at any official use of the word “Taiwan”, seeing it as an endorsement of the international legitimacy of the self-ruled democratic island. China views the island as a breakaway province and has vowed to seize it eventually.

Lithuania led a boycott of the 17+1 (eastern European countries + China) summit in Feb 2021 and said it wanted the EU to deal with China only at a 27+1 level.

Although Taiwan has full diplomatic ties with only a handful of countries due to pressure from China, it has a thriving trade and related ties with almost all the major economies of the world, with representative offices in each other’s countries.


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