Dragonslayer does not give up
Photo: Horacio Villalobos # Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images
The opening of Taiwan’s representative office in Vilnius led to the most serious crisis in relations between Lithuania and mainland China so far. Beijing lowered the rank of diplomatic relations with Vilnius and blocked the import of Lithuanian goods, and a propaganda campaign against Lithuania began in the media controlled by the communist authorities. The government in Vilnius, however, does not intend to yield.
Victoria Tower is a 15-storey office building located in the prestigious administrative and business district of Vilnius, near the Sejm. It is there, on the top floor, that the Taiwan Representation in Lithuania has been operating since November 18. The consent to its creation – although it does not officially have the status of a diplomatic mission – was the culmination of a series of actions by the Lithuanian authorities, which angered Chinese communist leaders. The stone of the image for Beijing, however, was not just the opening of the office, but its name. The use of the word “Taiwan” was considered a violation of the “One China” policy.
Although Beijing considers Taiwan a part of its territory, its representative offices operate freely in many countries, including most European Union countries, including Poland. Everywhere, except Lithuania, however, they are called the capital of Taiwan – Taipei, which is to emphasize their semi-official character. This is a gateway that allows countries that recognize and maintain diplomatic relations only with communist China with the capital of Beijing, simultaneously economic, cultural and scientific cooperation with the Republic of China in Taiwan.
The opening of the Taiwanese office in Vilnius has been announced since last spring. Indignant Beijing in August reacted by recalling its ambassador to Lithuania. Some representatives of the Lithuanian authorities tried to argue that China’s reaction was exaggerated. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, in an interview with the 15min.lt portal in November, shortly before the opening of the office, downplayed the name issue, pointing out that the representative office is not a diplomatic mission and its opening does not mean the official recognition of Taiwan. “We are still adhering to the” One China “principle, he declared.
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