Communist China Gets the Fantods Over a Summit for Democracy

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

President Biden’s upcoming Summit for Democracy is shaping up as quite a shindig, we gather from Communist China’s nigh nervous breakdown over the event. It was triggered by the State Department’s list of 111 invited countries with whom Mr. Biden will meet virtually next month. Among the countries on the list, tucked in between Switzerland and ​​Timor-Leste, is Taiwan.

Good for Mr. Biden, we say. The upcoming “flagship presidential initiative” hopes to spur a “Year of Action” to “build a broader community” of actors “committed to transparency, accountability, pluralism, equity, and rule of law.” It’s nice to see it includes Taiwan, an island democracy that for 75 years has existed in political limbo under constant fear of invasion from the People’s Liberation Army.

Notably absent from the guest list are the self-proclaimed democracies of Russia and the People’s Republic of China. No sooner was the American invitation sent to Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, than Communist China came down with the fantods. Its state-media outlet, Global Times, issued an apoplectic editorial accusing the Biden Administration of violating the “One China Principle,” a concept Beijing deliberately conflates with the “One China Policy” America supports.*

Should Ms. Tsai attend the summit, the tirade in the Global Times threatened, there would be “decisive counterattacks.” The editorial even went so far as to draw comparisons between Ms. Tsai’s potential attendance at the Democracy Summit and the crisis that erupted in 1995 over the Taiwan Straits. That event — known as the Third Taiwan Straits Crisis — was precipitated by the visit of Taiwan’s then-president, Lee Teng-hui, to his alma mater Cornell University.

Following Mr. Lee’s visit to Cornell, missiles were fired “into the waters” around Taiwan, Global Times noted. It went on to suggest that Communist China’s response should Ms. Tsai attend the Democracy Summit would be “more serious in nature.” It promised that “PLA fighter jets” would fly over Taiwan as “deterrence,” emphasizing that the “land underneath” would be declared “Chinese territory,” with any Taiwanese military defense attempts triggering an attack on “Taiwan’s military targets” by a “large number of missiles” and Communist China’s “bomber fleets.”

Did the threats work? In response to Mr. Biden’s’s invitation — and Beijing’s provocations — Ms. Tsai simply thanked America for hosting the “global conference,” yet announced that in her stead representatives would attend the summit. It’s hard not to see that as a flinch that Mr. Biden should have anticipated and prevented — all in the spirit of the Democracy Summit itself. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it,” says the Summit’s website, repeating remarks Mr. Biden had made in February 2021.

The flinch, though, is not necessarily the end of the game. A second summit is already being anticipated by the White House a year hence. The idea would be for next month’s participants, purportedly committed to “transparency, accountability, pluralism, equity, and rule of law,” to “take stock of the progress.” So there is at least a chance that next year’s — in-person — Summit for Democracy might have the honor of including the only democratically elected head of state anywhere in China.


Drawing by Elliott Banfield, courtesy of the artist.

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