The Chinese ambassador threatens to leave Estonia if a Taipei representative office is opened

China’s ambassador to Estonia, Guo Xiaomei, warned at a meeting with chairman of the Estonia-China parliamentary group, Toomas Kivimägi, that the opening of a Taipei representative office could lead to her departure from Estonia, the daily Postimees writes.

The meeting in the Estonian parliament took place at the initiative of the Chinese ambassador and the ambassador expressed her concern to Kivimägi about the visit of Taiwan’s foreign minister to Estonia on 8 November and the government’s decision to allow the opening of a Taipei representative office in Estonia.

“As for the visit of the foreign minister of Taiwan, I see no cause for excessive concern here. As a democratic country, it is not appropriate for us to say who can travel to Estonia and who cannot. But as far as opening a representative office is concerned, there is clearly a very serious problem and challenge here. The ambassador’s clear message was that this could mean the departure of the Chinese ambassador from Estonia,” Kivimägi said.

According to Kivimägi, he understands the role and meaning of communication with Taiwan, but the risks of such communication can be ten times greater for one side than for the other.

“I do not deny that I shared the Chinese ambassador’s concerns. In my opinion, the departure of the ambassador would be a very big problem for Estonia,” he said.

He added he did not consider himself an expert when it comes to China, but his personal assessment as the chairman of the Estonia-China parliamentary group is that there is a certain contradiction in Estonia’s activities.

“Estonia’s security is at stake”

“We have unequivocally declared that Estonia continues to follow the one-China policy and I was given a clear message in a memo before the meeting that Estonia recognises only the government of the People’s Republic of China as the government of China and Estonia has not recognised Taiwan as an independent country. I dare think that this is still Estonia’s foreign policy position. But the recent activities on the issue of Taiwan are, in my opinion, not quite in line with the principle that Estonia has confirmed,” Kivimägi said.

He said he was worried after the meeting with the Chinese ambassador.

“I would say Estonia’s security is at stake. After all, China is a major key player. In the current geopolitical situation, taking all security-related circumstances into account, the activity in the direction of Taiwan is incomprehensible to me,” Kivimägi said.

China’s ambassador to Estonia, Guo Xiaomei, meeting with chairman of the Estonia-China parliamentary group, Toomas Kivimägi, on 7 November 2023. Photo by the Chinese embassy in Tallinn.

The initiative for the meeting came from the Chinese ambassador, and according to Kivimägi, the ambassador repeatedly emphasised that she was meeting with him as the chairman of the Estonia-China parliamentary group, not as a member of the board of the parliament. Kivimägi added that, as far as he knew, the ambassador expressed her desire to meet even before the government decided on 2 November to permit the opening of a Taipei representative office in Estonia.

“It is possible that she may have had this information earlier,” Kivimägi added.

China could play a bigger role in ending the war in Ukraine

At the same time, the meeting initiated by the Chinese ambassador, who presented her credentials to president Alar Karis at the beginning of October, could have been part of a series of first meeting visits of the newly appointed ambassador. For example, the website of the Chinese embassy features information about and a photo of a meeting of the ambassador with the mayor of Tallinn, Mihhail Kõlvart, on 27 October.

Kivimägi also spoke with the Chinese ambassador about the war started by Russia in Ukraine.

“I repeated to the ambassador what I have said many times before, that China could play a more significant role in ending this war. We discussed that even Chinese president Xi Jinping cannot tell Russian president Vladimir Putin to do this or that. But I honestly believe the Chinese leader is perhaps the only one that Putin listens to at all,” Kivimägi added.

China’s ambassador to Estonia, Guo Xiaomei, presenting her credentials to the Estonian president, Alar Karis, in early October 2023. Photo by the Chinese embassy in Tallinn.

He pointed out to the Chinese ambassador that Western countries are trying to pressure Russia to stop aggression by means of economic sanctions, to which the ambassador asked if a weak Russia is better than a strong one.

“I answered that in this context, yes. If Russia does not have the money to buy weapons, ammunition or the technology necessary for the military industry, it will help stop the aggression. I also said that if Russia uses third countries as a back door to bypass sanctions and if China also helps Russia find a market for its gas or oil, then it is working against the sanctions,” Kivimägi said.

A representative office of Taipei, not Taiwan

The Estonian government on 2 November decided that a representative office of Taipei can be opened in Estonia, which does not develop political relations with Taiwan, but is intended to promote mutual economic, educational and cultural communication. It is important to note that this is not a representation of Taiwan, but of its capital, Taipei, which indicates that it is not a diplomatic representation.

The Taiwanese capital, Taipei, at night. Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash.
The Taiwanese capital, Taipei, at night. Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash.

Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu visited Tallinn on 8 November and met with the members of the Estonian parliament’s Estonia-Taiwan friendship group. Kristo Enn Vaga, a member of the Reform Party just like Toomas Kivimägi, said at the group’s meeting with Wu that there is interest in Estonia in strengthening relations with Taiwan, and to illustrate this, the parliamentary friendship group includes representatives of all political parties represented in the parliament.

“For Estonia, establishing relations with Taiwan is promoting value-based foreign policy, as a result we will gain a democratic ally and open a new export market for Estonian companies,” Vaga said.

The members of the parliamentary friendship group expressed their support for Taiwan’s foreign policy, in the course of which Ukraine has been helped with humanitarian aid on a large scale.

“This shows that Taiwan stands for a democratic world order and dares to stand up to the aggressor,” Vaga added.

Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu meeting with Marko Mihkelson, an MP and a member of the Estonian parliament’s Estonia-Taiwan friendship group, in Tallinn on 8 November 2023. Photo by Marko Mihkelson.

During his visit, the foreign minister of Taiwan extended an invitation to the Estonia-Taiwan parliamentary friendship group to visit Taipei with a business delegation in order to develop bilateral economic relations. In addition, a possible law amendment that would recognise Taiwanese driver’s licenses in Estonia was discussed.

The Estonia-Taiwan parliamentary friendship group includes 16 members of the Estonian parliament from all political parties represented in the parliament.

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