US President invites Taiwan to virtual summit on democracy, potentially risking China’s ire

Nov 24, 2021: US President Joe Biden has invited Taiwan to a virtual summit on democracy with more than 100 countries – a move that is bound to anger China, which is not on the list.

The conference was the election term of the US president, who has put the struggle between democracies and “autocratic governments” at the center of his foreign policy.

The “Summit for Democracy” will be online on December 9 and 10, before an in person meeting in its second edition next year.

The meeting was long publicized, but the guest list – published on the State Department’s website on Tuesday – will be scrutinized. Surprisingly, America’s main rivals China and Russia are not on it. But the United States invited Taiwan, which it does not recognize as an independent country but as a model democracy.

China condemns any use of the word “Taiwan” to give the sovereign island a sense of international legitimacy, which Beijing claims to be part of its territory and vows to take back even by use of force. 

The US move is a guarantee of further escalation of tensions between the two superpowers.

India, often referred to as “the world’s largest democracy”, will continue to exist despite growing criticism from human rights defenders over the democratic setback under the leadership of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Pakistan will be present as well.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was called “autocrat” by Biden, is not on the list. Only Israel and Iraq were invited from the Middle East. America’s traditional Arab allies – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – are all missing.

Biden also invited Brazil, led by controversial right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro. In Europe, Poland is represented, despite repeated tensions with Brussels over respect for the rule of law, but not the far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

On the African side, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Niger are invited.

This summit is being held because democracy in the countries from which the United States had high hopes has been shaken. Sudan and Myanmar have experienced military coups, Ethiopia is embroiled in a conflict that US diplomats say could lead to its “explosion”, and the Taliban’s rise to power two decades after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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