After China last month rejected a shipment of 24,000 bottles of Lithuanian-produced dark rum, state-owned Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp earlier this month said it had purchased the lot.
It seems that Beijing has no intention of letting up pressure on Lithuania, and the US does not seem to understand that this kind of political manipulation can be considered a weapon.
Perhaps the only country that is motivated to help Lithuania is Taiwan. However, Taiwanese should understand three things.
First, Lithuania’s annual export volume to China is about US$300 million, and its exports to Taiwan are just more than US$30 million. Taiwan’s exports to Lithuania are three times higher than Lithuania’s to Taiwan. This leaves much room for Taiwan to at least expand its imports from Lithuania in kind.
Second, Lithuania has a population of about 2.8 million, about equal to Taipei’s population. Thus, Taiwan is a large market for the Baltic state.
Third, Lithuania’s main exports are not chocolate and beer. They are mineral oil, machine tools and auto parts. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and other large Taiwanese firms are eager to join the global technology supply chain, so they can meet their needs by purchasing such products from Lithuania directly. Meanwhile, the government could make purchases from the country, so that small and medium-sized enterprises would not have to worry about a shortage of materials.
It is important that Taiwan comes to Lithuania’s aid, because if Taiwan regards itself as a key member of the supply chain in the new Indo-Pacific region, then it should prove its ability to not only shelter an ally from attack when it is being sanctioned by China for supporting Taiwan, but also help establish a new economic order. By doing so, Taiwan can slap China in the face, while substantially promoting its international influence.
Lithuania’s main export products are urgently needed by Taiwan’s military, which is looking for ways to boost its national defense autonomy. In addition, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia and other countries are watching Lithuania’s moves and how Taiwan responds.
Although the Taiwanese market is not as large as the massive Chinese market, if the government mobilizes its resources, it can save Lithuania from Beijing’s wave of attacks.
If Taiwan fails to block the economic assaults, the inroads it has made with central and eastern European countries would be cut off by China, and its hard work would have been in vain.
Taiwan can help Lithuania restore its status in the face of Chinese sanctions, and perhaps even improve its situation. Instead of purchasing beer and chocolate, which are finished goods whose sales rely on the size of the market, Taiwan should concentrate on purchasing half-finished goods such as mineral oil, machine tools and auto parts.
Hopefully the government can seize this opportunity and deal a heavy blow to China’s economic warfare, and relieve the pressure on Lithuania.
Wang Wen-sheng is a retired political operations officer and a doctoral student at Jindal University in India.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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