Taiwan vows to invest $200m in Lithuania amid row with China

·2-min read
The empty building of the Lithuanian Embassy in Beijing  (AP)
The empty building of the Lithuanian Embassy in Beijing (AP)

Taiwan will invest $200m in Lithuanian industries, the head of the Taiwan de facto embassy in the Baltic state said on Wednesday, amid escalated tensions with China.

Eric Huang told an online news conference that a strategic investment fund that will be set up to implement the new policy, which would be funded by Taiwan’s National Development Fund, a government body, with the backing of the Taiwanese central bank.

The announcement came after Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Tuesday expressed regret at calling the Taiwan representative office in Vilnius by the name Taiwan instead of the traditional reference of Taipei.

Analysts believe China is arm-twisting Lithuania by exerting diplomatic and economic pressure on the tiny Baltic state to backtrack the diplomatic office’s decision. In November, China’s foreign ministry said that Lithuanian would “pay for what it did” a day after opening the diplomatic outpost.

In December, Lithuania closed its embassy in Beijing and pulled out its diplomats and their families for fears they might lose their diplomatic immunity.

In a radio interview, Nauseda denied that he was consulted about the name of the de facto embassy. “The name was the spark, and now we have to deal with the consequences,” he said. But he also said that opening the de facto embassy was not a mistake.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday: “Recognising a mistake is a step in the right direction, but more importantly, action must be taken.”

China considers Taiwan a renegade island and vowed to annex it by force if necessary, enraging Tapei and raising concerns in Washington.

“We will establish the fund as soon as possible, and we hope this year we will have some tangible results... I can imagine the first top priorities will be semiconductor, laser (and) biotechnology,” Mr Huang said.

Taiwan will also accelerate its approval process of Lithuanian dairy and grain exports into Taiwan’s market and would seek to link Lithuanian companies to Taiwan’s supply chain, Mr Huang said.

On Tuesday, a Taiwanese government-owned company announced it had bought a shipment of more than 20,000 bottles of Lithuanian rum after learning China would reject it.

Taiwan has also redirected 120 shipping containers from Lithuania blocked by China into its market, and will take “as much as possible” more, Huang said.

Experts suggest that Taiwan’s strategy is to try to economically shield Taiwan from China’s attempt to make an example of Lithuania.

Beijing says Lithuania’s growing diplomatic ties with Taiwan contradict the EU-proved “One-China” policy, which doesn’t recognise Taiwan as a state.

China is concerned about Western efforts to carve a bigger role for Taiwan on the world stage, and that other countries would follow suit if Lithuanians did not face the consequences for opening Taiwan’s diplomatic outpost.

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