Taiwan is set to participate in a virtual US Summit for Democracy this week after countries like China and Russia failed to make the roster in another sign of US support for East Asian democracy.
Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, and Digital Affairs Minister Audrey Tang, will represent Taiwan at the meeting on Thursday and Friday, along with representatives from more than 100 countries and global institutions.
“This democracy summit is the White House sending a signal that democratic countries should support each other and work together to improve human rights, freedom and democracy,” said Wang Ting-yu, a member of Taiwan’s legislature serving on the Foreign Office. business. & National Defense Committee.
Wang said Taiwan’s invitation to the summit was a “clear signal to Beijing” that Taiwan is a close ally and should be treated as a country, even though its government is recognized by only 15 countries and the Holy See.
Despite its international exclusion, Taiwan regularly tops the charts of democracy, ranking first in East Asia and 11th worldwide in the Economist Intelligence Units Democracy Index 2020.
The United States and Taiwan do not maintain formal diplomatic relations, but the United States has nevertheless been an important ally. Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the US has pledged to help Taiwan defend itself against outside threats.
The recent show of support from the US comes at a difficult time in Taiwan-China relations. In October, China stepped up airstrikes on Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, prompting Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng to say tensions were at their worst in 40 years.
In response to this threat, the US has become more vocal in favor of Taiwan, which included a recent statement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that China would face “terrible consequences” if it attacked Taiwan.
Beijing views Taiwan, a democracy of 23 million people, as a wayward province and does not rule out the use of force to unite it with the mainland.
Events such as the US Summit for Democracy are also an important way for Taiwan to maintain international visibility as it is barred from most major organizations such as the United Nations, said Yao-Yuan Yeh, the chair of the Department of International Studies and Modern Languages. at the University of St. Thomas in Texas.
“The US is likely to invite Taiwan to sit down at the table whenever they can, but before a full decoupling with China occurs, the US would still be careful about such steps to avoid misconceptions from China,” he said.
Since taking office in January, US President Joe Biden has sought to reverse a course set out by predecessor Donald J. Trump, causing the US to withdraw from many of its international obligations.
Biden has moved to a values-based foreign policy that portrays the world as a competition between democracies and authoritarian governments — an attitude that seems to have struck a chord with Beijing’s communist party.
After protesting the exclusion from the talks, China hosted a parallel democracy summit this weekend and released two reports on what it called the state of democracy in China compared to the United States.
China is an authoritarian country whose government is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. However, officials claim they are implementing “socialist democracy,” which they say is a core value of the Chinese Communist Party. Despite the claim, Beijing is far below liberal democracies when it comes to political freedom. China ranked 151 in the Economist Intelligence Units Democracy Index for 2020, putting it on par with Bahrain, Iran and Sudan.
However, the Chinese State Council’s white paper “China: Democracy That Works” has been heavily promoted on Twitter by state media and government accounts since its publication on Saturday.
A Twitter video produced by the Information Bureau of the State Council says: “China did not follow the established path of Western countries in its modernization drive. Similarly, China did not copy Western models of democracy, but created its own models.”
As part of the messaging campaign, the state-sponsored newspaper Global Times shared an image comparing lower voter participation in the United States unfavorably with China’s claimed 90% turnout.
Both should be seen as part of China’s larger effort to “promote its version of democracy and contradict what liberal democracies are propagating,” said Adam Ni, who publishes the China Neican newsletter on Chinese governance issues.
“It fits well with this idea of why democracy should be something that only western countries say is democracy (but) people take democracy as another meaning.”