President Joe Biden’s planned democracy conference has sparked a diplomatic spat between China and the United States, which the governing Communist Party regards as a challenge to its authoritarian policies.
The Democratic Party contends that China has its own brand of democracy and plans to release a study titled “China: Democracy that Works” on Saturday, five days before Biden’s two-day virtual summit with approximately 110 foreign nations begins.
After a top Chinese official warned that Biden’s “Summit for Democracy” separates countries and directs fingers at others, the White House fired back on Thursday against Chinese criticism.
The attendees, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, will debate how to work together to defend democracy across the world.
“We’re not going to apologize for it,” she declared.
She was replying to Chinese Vice International Minister Le Yucheng’s opening remarks at a government-sponsored expert session for foreign media in Beijing.
“It claims to be acting in the name of democracy,” Le remarked, without identifying the US. “However, this is the polar opposite of democracy. It will serve no purpose in terms of global solidarity, collaboration, or progress.”
Biden has made the battle between democracies and autocracies like Russia and China a core theme of his administration, arguing that democracies must demonstrate their ability to deliver. He has not invited Russia or China to his summit.
The Communist Party has replied by claiming that its system benefits the people of China, noting the nation’s fast progress into a middle-income country and relative effectiveness in minimizing COVID-19-related mortality. Officials frequently point out flaws in American democracy, ranging from gun violence to the insurgency at the US Capitol following the 2016 presidential election.
The Chinese are accurate in seeing the summit as a pushback against authoritarianism and China’s political system, according to Bonnie Glaser, a China specialist and head of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
“The Chinese Communist Party is undoubtedly concerned about the Biden democracy narrative and feels obligated to repeat that the people come first,” she wrote in an email. “Of course, the people are concerned about the party’s survival and function, but this is kept unsaid.”
By admitting Taiwan at the conference, the US also enraged China. China considers the self-governing island to be part of its territory and refuses to allow it to interact with international governments on its own.