US Summit: Urgent Need To Strengthen the Foundations of Democracy

Efforts to strengthen the foundations of democracy and broaden its base are essential to curb the growth of Chinese and Russian authoritarianism. We need to deepen our cooperation to maintain a free and open international order.

The Summit for Democracy, hosted by President Joe Biden, was held online. Representatives from about 110 countries and regions, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, were invited to the summit and engaged in discussions.

Biden talked about an urgent global crisis of receding democracy and called for strengthening its foundations, including reinforcing the rule of law and freedom of expression.

In the background, China’s growing influence and the decline in America’s prestige under the former Trump administration are likely factors. According to a Swedish research institute that codes countries as either democratic or authoritarian, the number of authoritarian countries in the world has increased since 2019.

It is very significant that the U.S. is trying to regain its leadership under President Biden as it leads the fight against authoritarianism.

It is noteworthy that Taiwan was invited to the summit, and chose a cabinet member with the current government as its representative. This is a strong reminder that Taiwan is a member of the democratic camp.

Taiwan has been excluded from international organizations such as the World Health Organization due to pressure from China, and has not been able to attend meetings even as an observer. Japan, the U.S. and Europe must continue to take steps to prevent Taiwan from being isolated.

At this year’s summit, the opaqueness of the invitation criteria remained an issue. The Philippines and India, countries whose leaders have been criticized for their intransigence, were invited, but Thailand was not.

Isn’t there a risk that countries that were not invited will consider this as being excluded from the democratic camp of ations and step up their efforts to get closer to China and Russia? The U.S. is reportedly planning to hold a face-to-face summit next year. In order to bring together a wider range of people, a certain degree of open-mindedness may be necessary.

China is fiercely opposed to the summit and is promoting the superiority of “Chinese-style democracy.” While it is true that different countries have different forms of democracy, China’s system, which restricts the human rights and freedoms of its citizens, can hardly be called a democracy. Respect for human rights is also a universal value enshrined in the U.N. Charter. Criticism of China does not amount to interference in domestic affairs.

In his remarks at the summit, Kishida emphasized the importance of states voluntarily working together to deal with actions that harm fundamental values.

The unity and strengthening of the democratic camp cannot be left to the United States alone. Japan should play a greater role and help lead the charge.

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