Taiwan Hopes to Take Part in Biden’s ‘Democracy Summit’ Amid Fresh Surge in Cross-Strait Tensions
11:53 GMT 13.08.2021 (Updated: 11:59 GMT 13.08.2021)
Last week, China pledged to take “legitimate and necessary countermeasures” over the latest sale of arms to Taiwan by the US. Beijing considers the island an integral part of China, and has warned repeatedly about the dangers of Washington’s activities, including the ‘freedom of navigation’ passage of US warships through the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan plans on taking part in President Biden’s ‘Summit for Democracy’ in December, and is continuing negotiations with the White House on the matter, Regine Chen, deputy director of the island’s foreign ministry’s department of North American Affairs, told reporters at a press briefing on Thursday.
No formal list of invitations has yet been sent out, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged in March that Taiwan would be invited to participate, praising the island and its “vibrant democracy,” status as an important technology hub, and “a country that can contribute to the world, not just to its own people.”
China does not consider Taiwan to be a “country” and has repeatedly blasted the Biden administration over its concerted efforts to further strengthen the US’s strategic ties with the island territory.
The “Summit for Democracy” initiative is expected to place on 9-10 December in virtual form, with a second, face-to-face meeting to take place a year after that. The summit’s themes are reportedly set to including “defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption and promoting respect for human rights”, i.e. catch-all code words and phrases often used by US officials to denote governments that the US disagrees with or seeks to topple.
The Biden administration formally detailed specifics on the planned summit on Wednesday. According to a White House press release, the meetings are expected to “bring together leaders from a diverse group of the world’s democracies” and to serve “as an opportunity for world leaders to listen to one another and to their citizens, share successes, drive international collaboration, and speak honestly about the challenges facing democracy.”
The State Department webpage dedicated to the summit does not list its participants, but offers hints, sprinkling its text on the ‘challenge to democracies’ with photos, including one of a woman from Iraq who has just voted (the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew its government), and another of students in Ukraine at the opening of a USAID-sponsored parliamentary education centre (the US backed a coup d’etat in Kiev in 2014 which overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected government).
China Warns Taiwan Not to Attend
Taipei officials’ negotiations to attend the US ‘democracy summit’ comes amid increasingly choppy relations between the Washington and Beijing over Taiwan. Tensions began to grow in January, when Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US, was invited to Joe Biden’s inauguration, and have been exacerbated in the months since amid Washington’s continued ‘freedom of navigation’ deployments through the Taiwan Strait, as well as recent massive arms sales. Late last month, China’s defence ministry lashed out at the US over its naval missions in the Strait, calling Washington the “biggest destroyer of peace and stability” in the region.
Chinese officials have not commented on Taiwan’s possible inclusion in Biden’s ‘Summit for Democracy’. However, Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Jijin has warned that Beijing would “never sit back and tolerate the US and the island of China to break the bottom line” if Taiwanese officials were to attend. “By then, there will be unprecedented storms in the Taiwan Straits,” the commentator warned.
Calling the summit itself “another move by the Biden administration to counter China,” Hu suggested that the meeting was “tantamount to classifying countries across the world into democratic and non-democratic or ‘authoritarian’ groups. This drawing of lines will definitely divided the world.”
The Global Times chief further indicated that allowing Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen’s participation and showing her “on the screen with the heads of various countries and governments will gravely violate the one-China principle,” under which Washington is formally pledged not to recognise any other China than the People’s Republic.
On Thursday, the US, Japan, Australia and India discussed the importance of “peace and security” in the Taiwan during a virtual meeting of senior officials. The countries are members of the so-called ‘Quad’ security bloc, formed in 2017 to counter China’s alleged ‘malign activities’ in Asia and the Pacific. Beijing has characterised the bloc as an ‘exclusive clique’ against the PRC and has warned other nations against joining.