• The 20,400 bottles of dark rum was procured by Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor 
  • It brought the liquor at the request of the Taiwanese Ministry of Finance
  • The relations between Lithuania and China worsened recently 

A shipment of Lithuanian rum, bound for China, was brought by a Taiwanese firm to avert a potential blockade by Chinese customs. This comes as Lithuania cocked a snook at Beijing by allowing Taiwan to open a representative office in its capital, Vilnius.

The firm owned by the Taiwanese government stepped in to buy the product to stop it from becoming stranded at sea, reported South China Morning Post.

Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor (TTL) said in a statement Monday that it brought the 20,400 bottles of dark rum on Dec .18, almost 10 days before it was destined to arrive at China.

"TTL stood up at the right time, purchased the rum and brought it to Taiwan. Once the ship arrives at the port early this year, we will apply Chinese labels [to the bottles] and put them on the market. Lithuania supports us and we support Lithuania – TTL calls for a toast to that," the statement said. The report added that TTL procured the Lithuanian liquor at the request of the Ministry of Finance (MOF).

The ministry requested the TTL after the Lithuanian firm pleaded for help from Taiwan as the cargo, which was due to arrive in China on Dec. 20, 2021, might have faced customs issues. The exporter said this already happened to a beer shipment at China's borders.

The deal was carried out to help the Baltic nation, which earned the wrath of China after it refused to bow down to its demand to shun Taiwan, the statement added.

The bilateral relations between China and Lithuania worsened after Taiwan established a de-facto embassy at Vilnius in November. Since then, China downgraded its embassy in Lithuania to a charge d’affaires office. Beijing also demanded Vilnius do the same, resulting in Lithuanian envoys leaving Beijing.

Despite China's warnings that Lithuania's stance would sweep the Baltic nation to "the garbage bin of history," the small country of just 30 million people refused to budge. In retaliation, China allegedly imposed a customs block on Lithuanian exports.

According to Vidmantas Janulevicius, president of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, Chinese customs no longer lists Lithuania in its list of origin countries. "So customs forms for cargoes from Lithuania cannot be filed," he told Reuters.

The spat proved costly from Lithuanian companies, which exported 300 million euros worth of goods to China in 2020. Brewery Volfas Engelman was among the victims of the row, having suffered a loss of $567,428 in 2020.

Last month China downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania after Vilnius agreed to let Taiwan open a trade mission
China downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania in November after Vilnius agreed to let Taiwan open a trade mission. AFP / PETRAS MALUKAS