China fumes over Baltic states’ growing ties with Taiwan, Why?

Despite opposition from China, Estonia has gone ahead allowing Taiwan to open a non- diplomatic representative office in its capital Tallinn. Estonia which has reservations about China supporting Russia for invading Ukraine, is a strong supporter of Ukraine.  However, it did not succumb to Chinese pressure and welcomed Taiwanese foreign minister’s visit to Tallinn. The minister was on a visit to three Baltic states namely Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia from November 6 to 12.

“As many other European Union countries, Estonia is ready to accept the creation of Taipei’s non-diplomatic economic or cultural representations” in Tallinn, Estonian Foreign Minister MargusTsahkna stated.

Estonia’s decision to allow Taiwan to open a non-diplomatic representative office in Tallinn is a reflection of the Baltic state’s recent efforts to deepen its relationship with countries in Asia.Estonian move has left China fuming.

In fact, China has become concerned about this development because Estonia has become the second Baltic state that has decided to broaden its relationship with Taiwan after Lithuania. Some analysts said that the trip was a concrete way to broaden the relationship that Taiwan has established with Baltic countries since the opening of the “Taiwanese Representative Office” in Lithuania two years ago. “What we are seeing is the two sides building on what they have established,” Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy, an expert on Taiwan-EU relations at the National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan, told Voice of America.

China’s ambassador to Estonia, Guo Xiaomei, issued a warning at a meeting with chairman of the Estonia-China parliamentary group Toomas Kivimagi that the opening of a Taipei representative office could lead to her departure from Estonia, reported

EER News, the English-language service of Estonian Public Broadcasting, had reported that the Estonian government had agreed to let Taiwan open an economic or cultural representative office in Tallinn using the name “Taipei.” “Just like many other European Union countries, Estonia is ready to accept the establishment of a non-diplomatic economic or cultural representation of Taipei in order to promote such relations,” Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs MargusTsahkna was cited in the report as saying. With regard to Taiwan Estonia clarified that it did not recognise Taiwan as a state. “As part of the ‘One China Policy’, we are not developing political relations with Taiwan,” said the Estonian foreign minister. “At the same time, we consider it important to boost relations in domains such as the economy, education, culture, relations between NGOs, and other similar fields. “We also support Taiwan’s participation in international life in areas of global importance, such as the fight against pandemics and Taiwan’s attendance at the World Health Assembly,” he added.

China foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called on Tallinn to “refrain from allowing Taiwan to set up any official organisation, and effectively safeguard the political basis of bilateral relations.”

Beijing is ultra-sensitive to any moves that give recognition to the self-governing island as a sovereign country. It claims Taiwan as its own, under the one-China policy. In the statement sent to Euronews, Estonia insisted its plans to allow Taiwan to open a representative office were in line with EU policy.

Estonia is a staunch supporter of Ukraine which is battling the Russian invasion and China supports Russia. Estonia has made it clear that China should not support Russai and follow the principles of the rules-based world order. “Obviously, we also consider it crucial to protect our fundamental values, including democracy and human rights. We underline this to the representatives of China at every meeting,” he added.

As far as Lithuania is concerned, ithad allowed Taiwan to open its office in the capital Vilnius in November 2021. Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu  addressed the “Future of Democracy” forum in Vilnius to expand on the threats to freedom and democracy in the Indo-Pacific region.

In Latvia, Wu called for deeper cooperation between Taiwan and Latvia in the face of authoritarian challenges to the international rules-based order while expressing gratitude to Latvia for backing Taiwan’s bid for involvement in the World Health Organization.

Chinese experts said that Estonia was playing an edge ball. Research fellow at the Institute for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Studies of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies suspected the involvement of US and DPP authorities in persuading Estonia to take a bold stand.

China has been trying to expand its influence in the Baltic states and other parts of Eastern Europe. The opening of Taiwan offices in the region is seen by Beijing as a threat to its own interests and influence. Also, China has been trying hard to prevent Baltic states from becoming too close to the United States. The United States is Taiwan’s most important ally, and China sees the opening of Taiwan offices in the Baltic states as part of a US-led effort to contain China. An article in Global Times stated that the Taiwan question is China’s red line. Once it is touched by any country that wants to lever it to gain political capital, it inevitably affects its relations with China.

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