Undecided on China are most dangerous group in Lithuania – experts

  • 2024-02-22
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - The large proportion of people in the Baltic states who are undecided on China are the most dangerous group, experts who have analyzed China's impact in the Baltic states say.

They study shows that Lithuanians are undecided on whether Taiwan is part of China, with 44.6 percent having no opinion on this matter. More than a third disagree and a fifth agree. Meanwhile, 37.2 percent of people in Lithuania believe that support for Taiwan does not bring any economic benefits to Lithuania and should be less important than maintaining good economic relations with China.

"Given that a lot of people have no opinion on some issues and they cannot say yes or no, so this is the mass that is probably the most dangerous right now," Tomas Jermalavicius, head of studies at the International Center for Defense and Security in Estonia, said at the presentation of the study results on Thursday. "They are the ones that need to be fought for the most right now."

Konstantinas Andrijauskas, an expert from the Eastern Europe Studies Center and co-author of the study, says Lithuanians generally find it difficult to talk about China.

"They even find it difficult to identify China's role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which would seem to be one of the cornerstones of international politics for many in our society, and yet they find it difficult to talk about it", he said. "This means that we all need to do a lot of work in informing people about what kind of state this is, what its role is on the international stage and, at the same time, in our region and in our country."

The poll also shows that almost 46 percent of Lithuanians have no opinion on whether China is helping to bring peace to Ukraine.

Lithuanians see China as an economic power, Andrijauskas pointed out. 44 percent believe that Lithuania's economy will struggle to survive without investments from China. More than a third did not have a clear opinion on the issue and only a minority disagreed.

The study comes as Lithuania has been deepening its ties with Taiwan over the past few years, trying to reduce China's influence.

Lithuania's deepening ties with Taiwan are infuriating China and forced it to downgrade its diplomatic representation in Lithuania and block Lithuanian exports and imports last year.

This led Brussels to refer the matter to the World Trade Organization in early 2022. Following an appeal by the European Commission, the WTO's arbitration panel suspended its proceedings regarding trade restrictions imposed by China on Lithuania in late January.

"In Lithuania's case (...), a recurring trend throughout the four focus and interview groups was that people lacked communication about what had happened and they wanted Lithuania to act in the context of some kind of coalition," Andrijauskas said, adding that a large part of the respondents were not convinced by the image of Lithuania as a courageous country.

"Apparently, there's a rather ingrained perception that things went overboard," the expert said.