The Biden administration has invited Taiwan to its “Summit for Democracy” next month, a move that has infuriated China, which regards Taiwan as its territory. According to the list of participants published on Tuesday, China has not been included. It has been reported that the Taiwan Foreign Ministry will be represented by Digital Minister Audrey Tang and Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US, Hsiao Bi-khim.
Bloomberg reported that the announcement came shortly after the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance said that the US had also fallen victim to authoritarian tendencies and had been knocked back a significant number of steps on the democratic scale.
What Is The Summit About?
In his first foreign policy address in February, President Joe Biden had pledged that the US would take on authoritarian forces led by China and Russia as they sought to undermine international stability. The gathering seems to be a test of that pledge.
The White House website reports that the summit will address the multiple threats democracies around the world face with “collective action“. At the summit, leaders will discuss the challenges and opportunities facing democracies, and reforms and initiatives aimed at defending democracy and human rights at home and abroad. In addition, summit participants are encouraged to announce concrete steps that will help move democracy forward across the globe.
110 countries have been invited by the US State Department to attend the virtual event on December 9 and 10. The event aims to stop eroding rights and freedoms throughout the world and stop democratic backsliding. In addition to its western allies, India, Pakistan, Iraq, South Korea, the Maldives, and Indonesia were also among the countries invited by the US. Taiwan will also be among the participating countries, however, China has not been invited. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and the UAE, which are the traditional Arab allies of the US, have also been left out, along with NATO member Turkey. The Middle East is a sore spot where the US has not been able to secure any attendees other than Israel. While Iraq has been included, the US has omitted Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
Biden’s preparations for the summit have also proved difficult as the administration has struggled to decide which other countries to invite and which to omit. This was reflected in the final guest list: Brazil, the Philippines, and Poland were asked to attend despite the democratic backsliding catalysed by their leaders.
Taiwan And China
Commenting on the development, Taiwanese said, “Our country’s invitation to participate in the ‘Summit for Democracy’ is an affirmation of Taiwan’s efforts to promote the values of democracy and human rights over the years.”
In contrast, China’s Foreign Ministry said it was “firmly opposed” to the invitation. The Chinese government has alleged that Joe Biden made a mistake by inviting Taiwan to take part in a democracy summit alongside 109 other democracies. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing that the US’ actions demonstrate that democracy is just a cover and a tool for Washington to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world, and serve its own interests.
The invitation to Taiwan comes as Beijing has intensified its efforts to downgrade or sever all countries’ relations with the island, which it considers to have no right to state unilateral claim to legitimacy. Taiwan claims that Beijing has no right to speak on its behalf.
On the other hand, the Biden administration has also stressed its commitment to the “one China” policy, which recognises Beijing over Taipei. They have also said that they are opposed to “unilateral efforts” that could undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. While the US’ ‘one China’ policy acknowledges that Beijing claims Taiwan as a province, it does not recognise the claim. China’s Foreign Ministry has urged the US to “stick to the ‘one-China’ principle and the three joint communique”.
It is still unclear why the administration chose to include Taiwan in the summit. Even though the island has one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies it is only recognised as sovereign by a few nations, including the United States.
Firstpost reports that the US and China have been at odds over several issues such as the US’ efforts to curb China’s influence in Southeast Asia. During a recent meeting between Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the two countries traded barbs over Taiwan. Jinping reportedly warned Biden not to get involved with Taiwan because it would be like playing with fire. China also criticised the Quad summit held by Biden with Australia, India and Japan in September.
Taiwan’s inclusion comes after a series of measures taken by the Biden administration to demonstrate its support for a key ally even as it tries to reduce tensions with Beijing that claims the island as its own. According to some analysts, China has increased its military flights near Taiwan in preparation for an invasion in the next few years. The Biden administration’s decision not only confounds the US’ view of the China-Taiwan dynamics but has also angered China.
As one of the key geopolitical challenges of the 21st century, Biden has frequently characterised the fight between democracies and autocracies. He had said in one of his speeches in April 2021 that the US must push back against Xi and other leaders who claim their system of government is better than ours.