Then-Vice President Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2011.
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
China said the US made a "mistake" in inviting Taiwan to Biden's upcoming democracy summit.
Xi Jinping recently warned that Biden was "playing with fire" when it came to Taiwan.
Tensions over Taiwan have contributed to an extraordinarily thorny dynamic between the US and China.
The Chinese government told President Joe Biden that inviting Taiwan to his upcoming democracy summit was a "mistake."
China opposes "any official interaction between the US and China's Taiwan region," Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Wednesday, according to The Guardian.
China's foreign ministry said it was "firmly opposed" to Taiwan's participation in the summit.
"US actions only go to show democracy is just a cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests," Zhao Lijian, a foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters, per Reuters.
A list of participants in the summit was published on Tuesday, which showed that Taiwan was among the 110 invitees. The summit is set to occur virtually on December 9 and 10.
"Taiwan has been and will be engaged in Summit participation in a manner consistent with the US 'one China' policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances, and in recognition of Taiwan's role as a leading democracy," a senior Biden administration official told Insider.
"We believe that Taiwan can make meaningful commitments toward the Summit's objectives of countering authoritarianism, fighting against corruption, and advancing respect for human rights at home and abroad," the official said.
The official added that Taiwan's "experience in advancing a more transparent, responsive, and vibrant democracy serves as a powerful example," describing it as a "global leader in developing best practices for safeguarding against disinformation and foreign interference, in the use of emerging technology to make governance more transparent and responsive, and in promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons."
Digital Minister Audrey Tang and Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's representative in Washington, will represent their government at the summit "to showcase Taiwan's world-class expertise on issues of transparent governance, human rights, and countering disinformation, consistent with the US 'one China' policy," the official said.
The US's relationship with China is at a historic low, with tensions over Taiwan at the heart of the rift.
Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping cautioned Biden against promoting Taiwanese independence, saying that the US was "playing with fire" when it came to Taiwan. The Chinese government considers Taiwan, a self-governed island democracy, a breakaway province.
"Such moves are extremely dangerous, just like playing with fire," Xi said during a virtual meeting with Biden last week, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. "Whoever plays with fire will get burnt," Xi added.
"We have patience and will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts," Xi told Biden. "That said, should the separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence' provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures."
Biden has not called for Taiwanese independence but has sent mixed messages in terms of US policy toward Taiwan. He and other US officials have reiterated their position that China and Taiwan should negotiate their relationship peacefully.
The US cut off formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 when it established official ties with China's foreign government. But Washington has continued to have a robust unofficial relationship with Taiwan, and under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 the US is committed to providing the island with defensive weapons.
"The US will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability," the law says.
The US has generally upheld a policy of "strategic ambiguity" toward Taiwan — intentionally being vague about how it would respond if China attacked. But Biden in October seemingly committed the US to Taiwan's defense if China invaded, which led the White House to walk back his comments.
Biden has made boosting democracy worldwide a major foreign-policy goal and vowed on the campaign trail to hold a summit focused on this. He entered the White House less than a month after a violent insurrection at the US Capitol, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken said damaged America's ability to promote democracy.
"American democracy is not a model for anybody right now, but that doesn't mean democracy is not a model," Archon Fung, the Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, told Insider in January. "If you're interested in democracy, don't look at American democracy — especially not right now — on how to have a good democracy. There's a lot of other places that are doing it much better, and we should be learning from them."
Fung said Biden's democracy summit was a "great idea" but added that the goal of such an event should be "what we can learn from other places to make America that city on a hill that we would all love it to be."
The US was listed as a "backsliding democracy" for the first time in an annual report from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm. The report warned of the decline of democracy worldwide, saying that the number of countries "moving in the direction of authoritarianism is three times the number moving towards democracy."
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