Joe Biden invited some 110 countries and territories to his virtual summit for democracy in December, including the main Western allies of the United States, but also Taiwan in a clear message to China, whose shadow should hang over this meeting. you despite his absence.
The American president has not hidden it since his arrival at the White House in January: the fight between democracies and “autocracies”, embodied in his eyes by China and Russia, is at the heart of his foreign policy.
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The “summit for democracy”, a campaign pledge the first version of which will take place online on December 9 and 10 before a face-to-face meeting a year later, is one of the cornerstones of this priority.
Taiwan and India invited
But the guest list was not yet known. It was published on Tuesday on the site of the US State Department and, probably weighed with a trebuchet, it will be closely scrutinized. Unsurprisingly, Washington’s main rivals, leading Beijing and Moscow, are therefore not included.
On the other hand, President Biden invited Taiwan, which the United States does not recognize as an independent country but willingly sets up a democratic model against China, which considers the island as one of its provinces called upon to return to its country. bosom. Its presence at the virtual summit should therefore maintain the tensions that have ignited in recent weeks around the fate of Taipei.
Unsurprisingly, Beijing “strongly condemned” this decision on Wednesday. “Taiwan has no other status in international law than that of an integral part of China,” a spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy, Zhao Lijian, told the press. Almost at the same time, the authorities of the island at the heart of the Beijing-Washington rivalry thanked the American president for his decision to invite Taiwan. “Thanks to this summit, Taiwan will be able to share its experience of democratic success,” Xavier Chang, spokesperson for the office of the presidency, told reporters.
India, often referred to as “the world’s greatest democracy”, will be present despite frequent criticism from human rights defenders of its Hindu nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi. So is Pakistan, despite a checkered relationship with Washington.
An opening in the guest list
Turkey, Washington’s ally within NATO but whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has in the past been described as an “autocrat” by Joe Biden, is not among the participating countries either.
In the Middle East, only Israel and Iraq were invited to this meeting. The traditional Arab allies of the Americans, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are absent.
Joe Biden also invited Brazil, which is led by controversial far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.
In Europe, Poland is represented, despite recurring tensions with Brussels over respect for the rule of law, but the Hungary of Prime Minister Viktor Orban is not. On the African side, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Niger are among the invited countries.
Many setbacks against democracy
“For a first summit”, “there are good reasons to have a wide range of actors present: this allows a better exchange of ideas”, told AFP, before the publication of the list, Laleh Ispahani , from the Open Society Foundation. For her, rather than making it an anti-China meeting – “it would be a lost opportunity” – Joe Biden should take advantage of these meetings which will bring together both leaders and civil society to “attack the crisis represented by the serious decline of democracy throughout the world, including for relatively solid models like the United States ”.
This summit is being organized as democracy has suffered many setbacks in recent months in countries where the United States had placed great hopes: Sudan and Burma, theaters of military coups, Ethiopia, in prey to a conflict which risks making it “implode” according to American diplomacy, or even Afghanistan, where the Taliban have regained power thanks to the American withdrawal after 20 years of democratization efforts.
The United States itself joined for the first time the list of “retreating democracies” mainly because of a degradation under the Trump era, according to a benchmark report published by the intergovernmental organization International IDEA.