China says Biden making a ‘mistake’ in inviting Taiwan to democracy summit

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A CH-47 Chinook helicopter carries a Taiwan flag during national day celebrations in Taipei on 10 October 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter carries a Taiwan flag during national day celebrations in Taipei on 10 October 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

China on Wednesday “firmly opposed” the Biden administration’s decision to invite Taiwan to its “Summit for Democracy” scheduled for next month.

The response came shortly after the list of participants was published Tuesday on the State Department’s website in which Taiwan, alongside 109 other countries, were invited to the first-of-its-kind virtual gathering, while China and Russia were kept out.

Other notable absentees from the list include US ally Egypt and NATO member Turkey. Only Israel and Iraq would be the countries from the Middle East.

The conference is a part of the campaign pledged by US president Joe Biden back in February when he announced the return of the US to global leadership to face down authoritarian forces.

Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs office, called the decision of inviting Taiwan to the conference a “mistake” and said that the country opposed “any official interaction between the US and China’s Taiwan region”.

"US actions only go to show democracy is just a cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests,” Ms Fenglian told reporters in Beijing.

Despite Beijing’s opposition, Taiwan affirmed its participation in the event scheduled for 9 and 10 December. The island state would be represented by Digital Minister Audrey Tang and Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US, said Taiwan’s foreign ministry.

"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," the ministry said.

China has long claimed Taiwan as its territory and has opposed any efforts that extend international legitimacy to Taipei’s claim of a democratically self-ruled island state.

While Mr Biden reiterated the country’s long-standing support for the "One China" policy under which it officially recognises Beijing rather than Taipei, he also said he "strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

The invite comes at a time when Beijing has been mounting pressure on the countries to sever ties with the democratically governed island state. More recently, China entered into a spat with Lithuania about its decision to allow Taiwan to open a de facto embassy under the island state’s name rather than “Chinese Taipei”.

China’s foreign ministry said the move had "undermined China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity" and created a "bad precedent internationally" as it downgraded the diplomatic engagement with the country to the level of charge d’affaires, one rung down from an ambassadorship.

However, Taiwan has pushed back against China’s disapproval and announced its decision to host Lithuanian lawmakers next week. The foreign ministry on Wednesday announced the visit of Lithuanian parliament’s Taiwan friend group leader, Matas Maldeikis.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry added that he would be accompanied by other colleagues and lawmakers from Latvia and Estonia who would together attend a legislative forum on 2 December. The group is also expected to meet Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen.

Additional reporting from the wires

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