TAIPEI—Countries complaining about the U.S. Summit for Democracy need to double down on democracy themselves so maybe next time they’ll get an invite too, Taiwan’s digital minister said on Thursday, responding to China’s opposition to her attendance.
Audrey Tang, along with Taipei’s de facto ambassador in Washington Hsiao Bi-khim, will represent Taiwan at next week’s summit organized by the Biden administration.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has condemned the United States for its invitation, as it generally does for any interaction between the two governments, which do not have formal diplomatic relations.
Speaking as part of the Reuters Next conference, and asked about China’s opposition to Taiwan’s participation, Tang said she did not think this would be the last round of the democracy summit.
“There will be, in the future, more summit gatherings for democracy,” said Tang, a transgender woman who joined the cabinet in 2016, and who, at 35, is the second-youngest appointee ever.
“So, for all the governments and people around the world who maybe feel slighted that they have not been invited as a participant, my suggestion is to double down on realizing democracy so that maybe by the next round we will be sharing the same stage,” she added.
China has stepped up its military and political pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says only its democratically-elected government can speak for Taiwan’s people and that she will defend their democracy and freedom.
Tang champions radical transparency and full participatory democracy that is an ongoing process rather than something that occurs every four years, including petitions and getting ideas, like banning plastic straws, from people who are too young to vote.
“All these ways are to increase the bandwidth of democracy so that the government can respond to people’s needs in the here and now,” she said.
“And also, more importantly, new innovations can thrive instead of having to wait for four years, so to shorten the iteration, to make democracy more rapid.”
Tang has taken inspiration from the “live long and prosper” greeting of the Vulcan Star Trek character Spock for the idea of promoting sustainability and development, a phrase she likes to use in public settings such as interviews.
“I’ve found the entire world-building to be inspirational. I can’t say that I identify with any particular character, but of course live long and prosper I first saw it from Spock.”
By Ben Blanchard