China may cut direct rail links with Lithuania amid escalating diplomatic tension fueled by the small Baltic country's provocation against the Chinese mainland in the Taiwan question, according to a media report. Such a suspension would deal a major blow to Lithuania's economy, experts said on Sunday.
Direct rail links between China and Lithuania may be suspended, according to Yuyuan Tantian, a social media account affiliated with state broadcaster CCTV, on Saturday, citing an authoritative source.
A manager operating the freight train service from Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province told the Global Times on Sunday that shipments scheduled for next week can go as usual, but said he has no idea whether the link will be cut after that.
"This could happen because Lithuania is replaceable. Alternatively, China can export goods to Europe by transporting them through Russia and Poland," Zhang Hong, an Eastern European studies expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Saturday.
"There is an old Chinese saying that goes, 'Harmony brings wealth.' International economic and trade cooperation is also based on sincerity and mutual respect, and thus Lithuania's incorrect foreign policy approach will make it lose a promising trade partner and become more isolated," Zhang said, noting that Belarus has suspended oil shipments through Lithuania.
The Baltic country has been trying to build itself into a regional transport hub and international logistics transfer center, with Klaipeda port alone providing over 58,000 jobs for the country and contributing to 6.13 percent of its GDP, according to the Yuyuan Tantian report, adding that the China-Europe freight train is crucial for the country's plan to become a logistics hub.
Although international freight was battered last year amid the pandemic, Lithuania became the new postal hub of Europe, seeing a record of 33 full postal trains between the end of 2019 and July 2020.
However, Lithuania undermined its sound economic and trade cooperation with the Chinese mainland after it allowed the island of Taiwan to set up a "representative office" under the name of "Taiwan," which is in direct violation of the one-China principle.
"The small European country will be hoisted by its own petard by acting as a 'chess piece' in the US' strategy against China," Wang Yiwei, director of the institute of international affairs at Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Saturday.
"The buffoon miscalculated China's economic influence by overestimating itself in a desperate bid to gain more benefits. Lithuania is sacrificing its national interests by cooperating with the unreliable US," Wang said.
Bilateral trade between China and Lithuania grew by 16.9 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2021, despite the impact of COVID-19. Moreover, China in March approved 20 Lithuanian milk companies for registration in China.
China's Ministry of Commerce on Thursday urged the Lithuanian government to immediately correct its wrong decision that has undermined business confidence and take concrete measures to create favorable conditions for economic and trade cooperation.