tirsdag 30. november 2021

China and Lithuania: An Unlikely Feud with Bigger Implications

Here's What You Need to Remember: Not only has Lithuania not budged in the face of relentless CCP sanctions and démarches, but the Baltic country has seemingly managed to impose some small costs on Beijing in return. The China-Lithuania feud highlights the extent—and surprising limits—of Beijing’s ability to wield economic power as a tool of foreign compulsion.

The Republic of Lithuania has become an unlikely standard-bearer for transnational cybersecurity issues, with the country’s Defense Ministry urging Lithuanians not to purchase Chinese-made phones and to discard any they might have. The Defense Ministry’s announcement came on the heels of a government report alleging that phones manufactured by Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi ship with built-in capabilities to detect and censor phrases like “Taiwan Independence” and “dictatorship.” This censorship module appears to be dormant in phones sold to European markets, but can reportedly be enabled at a moment’s notice. Lithuanian cybersecurity officials added that the blacklist is being continuously updated with new phrases to reflect the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) latest priorities. 

Western governments have been aware of the potential security vulnerabilities of Chinese mobile devices for years, but many of Vilnius’s fellow EU states have been loath to formally raise the issue with Beijing, let alone to take active measures against state-backed Chinese tech conglomerates. Xiaomi representatives have denied Vilnius’s recent allegations, telling Chinese media that it does not “censor communications to or from its users.”