Chris Lange, FISM News
President Biden delivered opening remarks on Thursday morning in the first-ever Summit for Democracy. The virtual, two-day event spearheaded by the president is intended to bolster global democracy, combat authoritarianism, promote human rights, and address corruption according to Reuters.
“Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. And we have to renew it with each generation,” Biden said as he kicked off the meeting. “In my view, this is the defining challenge of our time.”
Delegates representing 111 governments and civil and private sector leaders are expected to attend. Considered a test of Biden’s assertiveness, the Summit’s announcement has been overshadowed by controversy, particularly over the guest list.
China, who along with Russia was not invited, accused Biden of finger-pointing and fostering fissures between nations, maintaining that it has its own successful form of democracy.
“[The U.S.] claims it’s doing this for democracy, but this is in fact the very opposite of democracy,” said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, who issued a report titled “China: Democracy that Works” at a government-hosted forum attended by foreign journalists just days ahead of the Summit. “It will do no good to global solidarity, no good to cooperation and no good to development,” said Le.
The communist nation was also purportedly infuriated over Taiwan’s invitation. China maintains that the self-governing island is part of its territory and vigorously opposes any contact with foreign governments.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded to Le’s remarks by saying participants are convening to champion democracy around the world. “That’s nothing we’re going to apologize for,” she said.
Following the announcement of the Biden initiative, the communist country swiftly launched a concerted anti-Summit campaign that included a barrage of mocking tweets issued by Chinese-state-affiliated Global Times.
#Opinion: In the name of "democracy," the ones in the US that can reflect their will are Money-cracy, Gun-cracy, White-cracy, Media-cracy, Milita-cracy, and Drug-cracy. People cannot make the decision. "Six masters in one country, there is no democracy."https://t.co/kKFr4YjvLT
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) December 6, 2021
A Russian political commentator was quoted in one of the tweets likening the summit to a “mistress of a brothel teaching morale [sic.] to schoolgirls.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Biden also drew criticism for inviting guests like Europe’s longest-running dictator, Alexander Lukashenka, who has brutally cracked down on protesters in Belarus claiming he stole an election; Burma, where military rule was recently reestablished in a violent coup; and Ethiopia, whose leaders are racking up a long list of horrific human rights abuses.
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said Biden’s gesture in arranging the summit rings “hollow” based on his administration’s failures to follow through on its pledge to place democracy and human rights at the top of foreign policy decisions. In a Fox News op-ed, he said “If the administration is serious about these commitments, where are the ‘measured’ sanctions candidate Biden promised for corrupt regimes? Where are the returned Americans held hostage for years without sight of their families? Where are the programs to promote the furtherance of international norms?” Risch also eviscerates Biden for placing foreign policy “quite some distance behind climate change.”
Risch additionally pointed out that Biden only invited Kosovo, “an actual democracy” originally left off the guest list, following pressure from “outside groups,” and then inviting Serbia, “a not-so-democratic neighbor,” out of fear of creating an offense with the Kosovo invite.
Another notable guest-list omission, according to Risch, is Congress. “The most democratic and deliberative legislative body in the world is being excluded from a first-of-its-kind democracy summit,” he said.
Adding to the controversy surrounding the selected delegates to the summit is the overt inclusion of progressive talking points. According to an MSN report, senior administration officials said the U.S. will deliver “new announcements” on the subject of voting rights and the “assault that folks, in particular Republican legislators, have been engaged in across the country.”
Biden is also expected to deliver remarks at the close of the Summit Friday.