The US gathers allies against China in “Summit for Democracy”

Researchers say the event organized by Biden aims to isolate Russia and China

December 09, 2021 by Brasil de Fato
President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, April 28, 2021

The United States, with an event dubbed “Summit for Democracy” to take place on December 9 and 10, claims to promote a celebration of democracy. According to the US government, the objective is to discuss with government authorities, civil society actors, and the private sector, three “key topics”: countering authoritarianism, fighting against corruption, and advancing respect for human rights at home and abroad. In 2022, the goal is to hold the same meeting, but in person.

The summit has been widely criticized and is considered controversial because only the White House decides who gets in and who is kept outside the celebration. China for example was not invited, but among the 110 countries invited, several countries with reprehensible human rights track records were invited such as Colombia, Brazil, Israel, the Philippines, and others. In the case of the Philippines, the United Nations (UN) has already called on Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to end extrajudicial killings committed by his government under the justification of a “war on drugs.”

Additionally, the White House invited Taiwan to the Summit, an island that claims to be an independent country but Beijing considers part of its territory. Taiwan has become increasingly more central to the US campaign of aggression against China. It sells military hardware to the island and has attempted to rally international support behind the island against China.

Another notable incident in this campaign was the announcement by the US that it will conduct a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. It has used cultural figures such as basketball player Enes Kanter to push other countries to join its boycott.

Russia was also not invited to the Summit and its ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, published an article with the Chinese ambassador, Qin Gang, with criticism of the event hosted by Biden. In The National Interest magazine, the pair says that the US event is an “evident product of its Cold-War mentality.” The text highlights that the promotion of “democracy” is linked with wars and conflicts around the world and cites the bombing of the former Yugoslavia, interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

“No country has the right to judge the world’s vast and varied political landscape by a single yardstick, and having other countries copy one’s political system through color revolution, regime change and even use of force go against international law, and are obviously anti-democratic,” the diplomats’ text in National Interest reads.

Paulo Velasco, a professor of International Relations at the Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ), said that the Summit for Democracy bets on an “anachronistic and not very functional” vision of diplomacy since it divides the world between “friends and enemies” at a time when the big issues of international politics, such as the climate emergency, need a multilateral approach. The researcher also questions the motto of the event.

“The flag of democracy has always been used in a very ‘a la carte’ way by the US. Always in a very punctual way, when it matters, to meet certain political purposes. It has been this way at least since the post-World War II period (1945), when we had a more American world order, with democracy always used as an instrument, an excuse, even to sponsor interventions and very abject acts throughout history,” Velasco tells Brasil de Fato.

Presences and absences

The UERJ professor says that the objective of the event is to “hinder the advance of China” and highlights some particularities of the invitation list prepared by the White House: the invitation extended to Pakistan, “a Chinese ally in the Asian context” which was rejected by Pakistan, and also the invitation extended to India. Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, cannot be considered a democratic leader, but India is a key partner when it comes to confronting Beijing.

Marco Cordeiro, a member of the Confucius Institute and a researcher at the National Institute of Science and Technology for Studies on the United States, evaluates that the objective of the Summit for Democracy is to “create embarrassment for its two strategic adversaries, in this case the government of China and the government of Russia.”

Cordeiro points out that another key element present in the Summit is the political dispute in the United States, as the Democratic president Biden seeks to differentiate himself from the Republican Donald Trump. However, the researcher points out that the Democrats cannot appear to be “complicit” with Beijing because of the anti-China sentiment that is growing in the United States.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, only 20% of the US population has a favorable view of China. The distrust of the Chinese, however, is not exclusive to Americans. The same survey was conducted in 17 countries, and in only two of them, Greece and Singapore, does the favorable view of China outweigh the unfavorable view. Among the 17 nations surveyed, the median favorable view of the US is 61%, while the median favorable view of China is 27%.

Cordeiro, who is also a professor at Unesp, says that although Beijing and Washington have exchanged barbs and strong statements, their economies are mutually dependent and a scenario similar to the Cold War is not likely to repeat itself.

“Unlike the Soviet Union, which was cut off from the world economy, China is now the main trading partner of most countries in the world, even for many countries in South America. It is also the largest trading partner of the United States. Since 2019, when this ideological dispute intensified, when they begin to embarrass China, even with lies, the bilateral trade between the two countries has only increased,” the researcher emphasized to Brasil de Fato.

Original article by Thales Schmidt in Portuguese on Brasil de Fato.

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