Analysing international policy processes and Lithuania’s role in them
Review Aug 11, 2021

Lithuania’s decoupling from China against the backdrop of strengthening transatlantic ties

Key highlights:

  • The review of Lithuania–China relations initiated by the current Government has already meant a significant decoupling on both the political–diplomatic and the economic–technological levels.
  • Beneficial to Lithuania as it is, this process is taking place against the backdrop of the historic low point in relations between China and the West (unprecedented since the Tiananmen Square Massacre) and the strengthening of transatlantic ties between the EU and the US.
  • From the spring of this year, Lithuania may, somewhat unexpectedly, position itself with respect to China as a not only brave but also far-sighted and active member of the Western normative and security community.
  • In view of such global trends and its behaviour over the last decade, China’s response to Lithuania’s actions has so far been rather reasonable and measured.
  • In combination with the effect of the pandemic, this provided a valuable opportunity to prepare for a potential response from China and give a closer look at hitherto little-discussed areas of bilateral cooperation.
  • In the short term, China’s response may primarily take the form of the relatively painless information attacks and the potentially more harmful measures of economic pressure.
  • To counterbalance these economic risks, consultations between interested parties from both public and private sectors and the economic dividends from a diplomatic diversification in Asia are essential.
  • While developing the ability to resist China on the national level, one must not ignore instances of “lower” and, accordingly, less visible levels of cooperation: primarily, the paradiplomatic and the academic.
  • When it comes to paradiplomatic cooperation (between respective cities and regions), it is essential to hold equivalent consultations with the country’s smallest municipalities, an admittedly unexpected point of focus of China’s.
  • No less threatening is the cooperation with China in the academic area – primarily, the field of natural sciences and technology and this should also receive special attention.
  • Transparency should become the key extra principle in all Sino–Lithuanian relations and at every level of their implementation, from the national to the academic.

Associate Professor of Asian Studies and International Politics at Vilnius University (Lithuania); former Senior Visiting Scholar at China’s Fudan (Shanghai, 2011) and Zhejiang (Hangzhou, 2013) Universities, as well as at Columbia University (New York, USA, 2017, Fulbright Scholar Program); author of two books on contemporary Sino-Russian-Indian relations (2016) and on the History of Pre-modern Non-European Civilizations (2018).