Lithuanian president expresses regret over decision on Taiwan that angered China

Relations with China had nosedived after Lithuania included "Taiwan" in the name for the island's representative office.

Kayla Wong | January 05, 2022, 10:55 PM

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Lithuania's president said the government made a mistake when they named Taiwan's representative office after the island, Euronews & AFP reported.

Regretted the move

Gitanas Nauseda, who overseas the country's foreign policy, said he was not consulted about the move.

"I think it was not the opening of the Taiwanese office that was a mistake, it was its name, which was not coordinated with me," he told a local radio station on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

"The name of the office has become the key factor that now strongly affects our relations with China."

Image via Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

Relations with China had nosedived

Lithuania's move to include the word "Taiwan" in the name for the representative office, had prompted strong condemnation from China, which recalled its ambassador to Lithuania, and told Lithuania to do the same, The Guardian reported.

The decision to do so and risk damaging bilateral relations with China was quite an unusual one considering the present trend of Taiwan's diplomatic allies switching recognition to Beijing instead.

Besides its embassies in its 14 remaining diplomatic allies, which contain the word "Taiwan" in their name, Taiwan's representative offices in at least 47 countries have the name "Taipei" instead.

China had also launched economic sanctions on Lithuania, blocking all imports from the Baltic state, and even gave an ultimatum to multinational firms to cut ties with Lithuania or bear the consequence of losing access to the lucrative Chinese market.

Despite expressing regret over the choice of name for Taiwan's representative office, Nauseda agreed with other officials' labelling of China's response as undeclared "sanctions".

"We have to be extremely active and make it very clear to the European Union that this is an attack, a kind of pressure on one of its member states," he said.

Criticised for remarks

Nauseda was criticised for his comments shortly after, with Lithuanian economist and member of the European Parliament, Aušra Maldeikienė, calling him "pathetic" for suggesting that the country should "bow down to the Chinese Communist Party after they called [Lithuania] dogs".

Lithuanian Member of Parliament Matas Maldeikis also took to Twitter to say that he disagrees with Nauseda's remarks, saying that "supporting democracy in Taiwan is the right thing to do even if it's hard".

China's warning to Lithuania

Relations between the two countries took such a downturn that it was described as the worst crisis in relations between China and a European state since 1981.

China has also most recently rebuked Lithuania for what they called a collusion with "Taiwan independence separatist forces", warning Lithuania that they would "eventually end up in the trashcan of history" and go further down "the dark path" if they don't stop their friendly ties with Taiwan.

Taiwan has stepped up to support Lithuania by buying 20,400 bottles of Lithuanian rum after they learnt that the shipment was going to be rejected by China, according to Taiwanese media Commercial Times.

China, on the other hand, had denied that they had rejected import applications from Lithuania, adding that Lithuania bears "the sole responsibility for the severe difficulties in China-Lithuania relations".

Lithuania also plans to open its trade office with Taiwan this year.

Lithuania has a long history of standing up to what they perceived as foreigners bullying them, notably Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which annexed the country in 1940.

Along with a strong belief in democratic values and civil liberties for its people, this is probably why the small nation of just 2.8 million population -- Global Times previously mocked the country as "crazy" and "tiny" -- dared to strengthen ties with Taiwan and stand up to a major power like China when other Western countries are not willing to do so.

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Top image adapted via Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images