China’s government has accused Joe Biden of “a mistake” in inviting Taiwan to participate in a democracy summit alongside 109 other democratic governments.
Taiwan was included in a list of participants for next month’s Summit for Democracy, published by the state department on Tuesday. Taiwan is a democracy and self-governing, but Beijing claims it is a province of China and has accused its government of separatism.
The inaugural gathering is considered a test of Biden’s pledge that he would return the US to a position asserting global leadership to challenge authoritarian forces led by China and Russia. Neither is included in the virtual summit, scheduled for 9 and 10 December.
On Wednesday, Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said the inclusion of Taiwan was a “mistake” and Beijing opposed “any official interaction between the US and China’s Taiwan region”.
“This stance is clear and consistent. We urge the US to stick to the ‘one China’ principle and the three joint communiques,” she said.
The US’s ‘one China’ policy acknowledges that Beijing claims Taiwan as a province but does not say it recognises the claim.
Since taking office, Biden and the White House have reiterated long-standing US support for its “one China” policy, which officially recognises Beijing rather than Taipei, but also said the US “strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.
During a virtual summit with Biden last week, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, said Beijing would have “no alternative but to take drastic measures” if their “red lines” were crossed. In August China’s state media tabloid the Global Times warned against inviting Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, to the summit, and said the US should use the Apec model, presumably in referring to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei”.
The editorial said failure to do so would be a “severe escalation” which would not be tolerated by Beijing.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said Chinese experts had been told Taiwan would be invited, and the main question was who would represent Taiwan.
“I’m really not sure if Beijing’s bottom line is simply that Tsai not be allowed to participate,” said Glaser. “But she won’t be invited, so maybe they can tell their domestic audience that the US backed down in the face of Chinese pressure.”
The event will bring together democracies such as France and Sweden but also countries such as the Philippines, India and Poland, where activists say democracy is under threat.
The announcement came shortly after the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance released a report saying the US also “fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale”, Bloomberg reported.