By Gautam Chikermane
In terms of GDP, it ranks 22sd out of 27, below Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Croatia. In terms of per capita income, it ranks 19e, below Estonia, the Czech Republic and Portugal. But in terms of taking a moral and forceful stance against China’s excesses, the tiny nation of Lithuania is hitting way above its weight and has set a benchmark that the rest of the European Union (EU) must support and follow. Such leadership, especially when stronger countries like Germany and France give in to the pressure and onslaught of this rising rogue nation, must be supported by countries around the world.
Three days after Lithuania implemented a Taiwan Representative Office in Vilnius on November 18, 2021, and used the word “Taiwan” instead of “Taipei” – the capital of the country, whose official name is “Republic of China” – like the rest of the world, Beijing began to blow and blowing by degrade diplomatic relations with the Baltic nation from ambassador to charge d’affaires.
Threats from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), to which a country is attached, have little meaning for Lithuania. Economically, China is not an important trading partner. China ranks 10e in terms of imports and is not among the top 10 export markets of Lithuania, whose biggest trading partner, in terms of imports and exports, remains Russia.
In terms of security, China does not share a border with it, nor can it reach Lithuania without trampling on other EU countries. In addition, as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the security interests of Lithuania are protected by the 30 members within the framework of “collective defense”, where an attack against the one member of NATO is seen as an attack on all.
It is therefore not surprising that Lithuania receives strategic economic support from the United States (US). In September, US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken, while welcoming Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, fell heavily on China: “Lithuania and the United States are very strong partners in NATO,” he said. “We stand together for collective defense and security. We oppose economic coercion, including that exerted by China. »On November 23, 2021, Landsbergis is expected to sign an American agreement $ 600 million export credit agreement with the US Export-Import Bank.
What is surprising, if not shocking, is how the big boys in the EU are bending over backwards to accommodate the CCP, ignoring human rights issues and labor camps in China. One of the reasons could be the higher stakes of a broader economic engagement. Germany, for example, is on the defensive due to the potential negative impact of China’s economic repercussions on Volkswagen, Siemens or BASF. Along with Germany, France supports the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China. Both are reluctant to allow Chinese company Huawei to offer 5G services in their country, despite a clear and present danger that the company is an arm of the CCP, a cyber thug, and a danger to their citizens – and through to the rest of the EU.
While the Big 2 continues to create spaces to welcome Chinese hegemony, ignore its use of forced labor in Xinjiang and allow it to infiltrate the EU, it is the smaller and younger countries like Lithuania that take the moral upper hand, defending the principles on which the EU has been founded. Take Romania, which in March 2021 kicked Chinese companies out of its nuclear and telecommunications sectors, refused to send its president to a major Chinese summit and made it clear that it priority to the EU-NATO-US troika. Or the Czech Republic, which in August 2021, despite Chinese pressure, supported its Senate President Miloš Vystrčil; Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi openly threatened Vystrčil, saying he would “pay a heavy priceFor his visit to Taiwan. In September 2021, as Lithuania prepared to establish the Taiwanese representative office and China began its usual ramblings, Slovenia had urged the EU to support Lithuania against China.
Under the leadership of Everything in China President Xi Jinping, the country has told the world it has economic power and will arm it to stifle everything from the use of democracy and its fractures. institutional to the rewriting of the maps of conquest to the extension of its state surveillance architecture to the rest of the world. He is it is time for the EU to end its extramarital affairs with authoritarianism, and demonstrative and warmongering cries. That China is a threat to democracies in general, and the EU in particular, is visible to everyone except the EU. Besides geography, the essence of the EU is its values. And one event after another, one country at a time, the EU is abandoning them.
There was a time when China’s rise to power was seen as benign, a step towards democracy or a decline in authoritarianism. But what is happening is the opposite. China is in a state of undeclared war with almost every country surrounding it; his two friends are Pakistan, which uses terrorism as state policy, and North Korea, which has a permanent finger on the nuclear button. While Germany and France are grappling with the economy of corporate interests, it is the small countries that show leadership of values.
For its part, China is using the usual salami-slicing tactics, such as those it has used in its neighborhood in forcing smaller nations to undermine India’s credibility, for example; or by attacking EU member countries within the framework of strategic bilateral agreements and breaking its unity; or convert liberal democracies by accepting authoritarian commitments by throwing small bones of trade, knowing that corporate interests will prevail over democratic interests; or that larger countries will quickly learn from Beijing’s “anger” and “punishment”. For the moment, it seems that Brussels is hiding its head and its values in the sand of commerce. Instead, he should use Lithuania to strengthen unity, bring together interests and declare a state of reciprocity.
All this appeasement tale of an “angry China” is manipulated by the CCP, transmitted to flexible media, and digested by decision-makers. It is a shame that the EU is following this narrative as a US $ 15 trillion strong concert of democratic nations. It must understand its own power, economic and strategic, and prevent further attacks by China against its members.
For its part, intoxicated by the servility and accommodation of the EU, the CCP is carried away. He hit Lithuania with informal trade sanctions, as he did earlier with eight countries: Canada, Japan, Lithuania, Mongolia, Norway, Philippines, South Korea and of course Taiwan. The CCP has no qualms; he does not believe in the rule of law. When countries kneel, Beijing kicks it. It’s natural. Bend in front of a bully and you reinforce the bullying. At such a time, as small nations raise their voices, the EU’s hands-off approach is a shame. It is Vilnius today. It was Bucharest, Prague and Ljubljana yesterday. To think that this assault will not reach Berlin and Paris tomorrow is strategically naive: the barbarians of Beijing will be at their gates as soon as possible.
It is time for the EU to get its act together. And the first step, however late it may be, starts with Lithuania.
The opinions expressed above belong to the authors.