The country has never seen such inconsistency before

President Nausėda and Minister of foreign affairs Landsbergis. Photo lrytas.lt
President Nausėda and Minister of foreign affairs Landsbergis. Photo lrytas.lt

Lithuania may be considering changing the name of the Taiwanese mission in Chinese to the Taiwanese Mission, the Reuters news agency reported. This is similar to the English version – The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania. However, foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis denies this information, Eglė Samoškaitė writes in tv3.lt

China’s domestic and foreign policy experts doubt whether such a move if taken would improve relations with Beijing. For China, anything to do with Taiwan is beyond compromise, and everywhere in the world, Taiwanese missions are named after Taipei, except in Somaliland.

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“This would only help in one possible case – if there is an ongoing contact and something has been agreed with the Chinese and not with someone else. And if the Chinese have already informed us that this could be an attempt to get out of the situation. But I would hardly imagine that this would help in any way, I am sceptical about it”, Konstantinas Andrijauskas, a China expert at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University, told tv3.lt.

The scholar says he doubts whether the name of the Taiwanese mission in Chinese would be suitable for both China and Taiwan. According to Andrijauskas, even if the mission were to be called a representative office of the Taiwanese people, the Taiwanese people or the Taiwanese people, we would still be in uncharted territory. There is simply not much experience of states daring to do this, so we have no data on the Chinese reaction in this respect.

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Vida Mačikėnaitė-Ambutavičienė, an associate professor at the Japan International University who studies Chinese domestic and foreign policy, makes a similar point. According to her, China has already sensed that Lithuania is wavering, that there is no consensus either within the country or in the EU.

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“The other problem is that Taiwan is an issue for China where there is no room for compromise. We cannot expect any compromise from the Chinese side on this issue. So, although this message initially sounded like a ray of hope, on closer examination, it is clear that it is simply a step too far, a cosmetic fix. And the problem, besides the name, is how that relationship with Taiwan is being developed. It has been developed publicly, loudly, and practically at the highest level. So if the name change could make a difference, the other problem is that public communication, communication with Taiwan”, says the expert.

Raigirdas Boruta, an analyst at the Centre for East European Studies, points out that Lithuania’s wavering is also observed with concern in Taiwan. He predicts that China would probably rejoice for days in official media channels if the name was minimally changed. Still, Beijing would probably increase pressure to have the mission named after Taipei or to close it altogether.

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“The current name of the mission is certainly annoying to China, but the fundamental problem is not just about the name,” says Boruta, confirming that Beijing is worried about Lithuania’s efforts to support the political recognition of Taiwan “as a de-facto independent democratic state governed by the rule of law in the international community”.

Lithuania’s support for Taiwan’s recognition in the international arena has been mentioned by Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomėnas and Minister G Landsbergis in an article before the elections.

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Asked whether Lithuania is consistent in its path, R Boruta says that there is a serious lack of consistency: “There is quite a lot of concern in Taiwan, especially when you look at their press. Taiwanese people are not very happy to see what is happening in Lithuania and domestic politics. The signals are all over the place, and the Taiwanese are watching it. Looking at the comments and posts of Taiwanese internet users, there are two opinions: people are cautious about the future of relations between Lithuania and Taiwan.”

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Citing two sources, the Reuters news agency reported that the Lithuanian authorities are considering changing the name of the Taiwanese mission from Taiwan to Taiwanese in Chinese. Foreign Minister G Landsbergis reportedly made the proposal to President Gitanas Nausėda. The latter denies the information. However, such a change would also require Taiwan’s consent, as Taiwan opened the representative office in Vilnius to allow Lithuania to do so.

The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry has reported that it has not received any proposal to change the Chinese or English name of the representative office in Lithuania.

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The Financial Times recently reported that some US diplomats are suggesting that Lithuania change the name of the Taiwanese mission to ease differences with China. Several sources familiar with the diplomats’ deliberations reportedly gave this information to the foreign publication.

The White House denied the information and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry reacted with particular sensitivity to the spread of such information. “The spread of such rumours is reminiscent of a disinformation campaign and is likely aimed at creating tensions between allies at a time when Lithuania is announcing new support for Ukraine. The name of the representation is a sovereign decision of the parties concerned. This decision is supported by the US administration, as confirmed by the comments of its spokesperson quoted in the circulated article.”

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Lithuanian President G Nausėda has previously publicly acknowledged that the name of the Taiwanese mission was a mistake, but he did not propose to change it then.

“I think that it was not the opening of the Taiwanese mission that was a mistake, but the name that was not coordinated with me,” the President said in an interview with Žinių radijas.

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Nausėda noted that both Lithuania and Taiwan can open representative offices that do not have diplomatic status, but regretted that “the name of the representative office has become the key factor that now affects our relations with China very strongly”.

“The main spark was more the name, and now we have to deal with the consequences, and I would say that unconventional measures have started to be taken against Lithuania. And for this reason, we have to be a very active and very clear signal to the European Union that this is an attack, a kind of pressure on one of the EU countries,” the President said.

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