'Crazy, Tiny Country': China Media Lashes Out at Lithuania Over Taiwan

The outspoken editor of a Chinese government mouthpiece published a tirade against Lithuania on Tuesday after the Baltic nation refused to reverse a decision to open a de facto Taiwan embassy in its capital.

Hu Xijin, who heads up the Chinese Communist Party tabloid the Global Times, expressed some surprise at Lithuania's resolve, which appears to have held in spite of the threat of a diplomatic fallout.

Hu lashed out at the Lithuanian government on Weibo, China's main social media service, and carried the same sentiments into an editorial on the state-owned tabloid's website.

"Lithuania is a crazy, tiny country full of geopolitical fears," he wrote, accusing Vilnius of siding with the U.S. against China. The Baltic state "has gone the furthest on the anti-China path in Europe," he said.

He added: "It is rare to see small countries like Lithuania that specifically seek to worsen relations with major powers."

The piece was published a few hours after the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced the decision to withdraw its ambassador from Vilnius, before demanding that Lithuania also recall its envoy in Beijing.

The ministry's statement pointed to plans for a new representative office in the Lithuanian capital under the name "Taiwan" instead of the usually ambiguous "Taipei," which the island nation uses for unofficial missions in the 57 countries where it has no formal diplomatic relations, including the United States.

"The Chinese Government expresses its categorical opposition to this move," said the Foreign Ministry.

In its own response, Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was "determined to pursue mutually beneficial ties with Taiwan like many other countries in the European Union and the rest of the world do."

Gabrielius Landsbergis, the country's foreign minister, told Reuters the government was considering its "next moves."

"Obviously we got the message but we stated our own message as well, that Lithuania will continue with its policy because it is not only Lithuania's policy we are pursuing, it is also the policy of many European countries," he was quoted as saying.

Taiwan has 23 offices in Europe, only one of which—in the Holy See—is an embassy under its formal name, the Republic of China.

EU and China Relations

Hu, of the Global Times, said Lithuania would "eventually pay the price for its evil deed of breaking international rules," but the view doesn't appear to be shared in the European Union.

Nabila Massrali, a spokesperson for the EU's diplomatic service, told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post that it was the first time China had recalled an envoy from a member state over the opening of a Taiwanese representative office.

The decision would "inevitably have an impact on overall EU-China relations," she told the newspaper.

"We regret the Chinese action and are following developments closely," she was quoted as saying. A Taiwan representative office in a member state isn't regarded as a breach of the EU's "one China" policy, she said.

Beijing's reaction, however, appears to show the importance of using ambiguous language to describe the democratic island it claims as one of its provinces. The new office in Vilnius would not only be Taipei's first in Europe in 18 years, it would also be the first to carry the name "Taiwan."

China Recalls Ambassador from Lithuania
A file photo showing the flags of China and the European Union at the Chancellery on January 26, 2021, in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images