Lithuanian President Calls for Better Relations With China

(Bloomberg) -- Lithuania’s president called for improved relations with China after the establishment of a trade office with Taiwan three years ago triggered a rift between the world’s No. 2 economy and the European Union member state.

Most Read from Bloomberg

President Gitanas Nauseda said that, while he views setting up the trade outpost as “positive in principle,” the representative office should adopt the word Taipei rather than Taiwan in line with international standards in a bid to defuse simmering tensions with Beijing.

“The adjustment could serve as a signal from Lithuania to normalize diplomatic relations with China,” Nauseda, who is seeking reelection in a presidential contest on Sunday, told Baltic News Service.

The comments coincide with a European tour by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who warned against a “new Cold War” during a trip to France on Monday as the EU increasingly aligns with the US on security and trade. The Chinese leader will travel on to Serbia and then Hungary this week in an effort to expand investment in eastern Europe.

But the spat with Lithuania exemplifies a harder line from Beijing, which considers self-ruled Taiwan its territory. After the Taiwan trade office was set up, the backlash included China blocking trade, scrapping Lithuania from its customs system and pressuring companies to stop sourcing in the Baltic nation. Identity cards of Lithuanian diplomats in Beijing were canceled.

Nauseda’s overture contrasts with recent comments in which he labeled China a “threat” because of its alignment with Russia. It also lays bare political divisions in the nation of 2.8 million, where the opposition has lambasted the government for its tough stance against Beijing.

Read More: Xi Urges Macron to Help China to Avoid a ‘New Cold War’

Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, this week called for a coalition of nations to fight against “economic coercion,” a reference to China. The president in contrast called for Vilnius to dial tensions back.

“All steps must include a respectful dialog with all parties concerned and in agreement with both Taiwan and China,” Nauseda said.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.