Taiwanese Minister’s Disappearing Slide at US Democracy Summit Causes a Stir

Taiwanese Minister’s Disappearing Slide at US Democracy Summit Causes a Stir
A Taiwanese flag flaps in the wind in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on June 30, 2021. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

The temporary cut to a Taiwan minister’s video feed during U.S. President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy last week caused "confusion," the U.S. State Department said on Monday. The incident happened after a global map appeared, showing the island of Taiwan in a different color to China.

The color-coded map shared by Taiwan's Digital Minister Audrey Tang during a presentation on Dec. 10 was produced by South Africa-based NGO CIVICUS. In the map, the organization colored governments according to their respect of civic rights, like freedom of speech and assembly. Communist China was given the worst "closed" rating with the color red. Taiwan, which is a self-ruled liberal democratic island, was categorized as “open” and marked in green.
As the video feed cut, Tang's screen was replaced with the caption “Minister Audrey Tang Taiwan,” although the audio feed could still be heard. According to Reuters, a disclaimer then appeared: “Any opinions expressed by individuals on this panel are those of the individual, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States government.”

The report, citing unnamed sources, alleged that the White House was concerned that the different colors marking China and Taiwan would be considered by China as at odds with its “one-China policy,” under which the United States recognizes there is only one China, while maintaining official relations with Beijing and unofficial relations with Taipei.

Washington and Taipei have denied that the incident was related to politics.

The U.S. State Department said “confusion” over screen-sharing resulted in Tang’s video feed being dropped, calling it “an honest mistake.”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a Monday statement that the loss of video feed was due to “a technical issue,” citing an explanation from Washington.

“Taiwan and the United States have fully communicated on this technical issue,” the ministry said. “Our two countries share strong mutual trust and a solid friendship.”

While an uninterrupted version of the minister’s full presentation has since been added to the summit’s official website, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP's) hawkish mouthpiece Global Times mocked the incident. In an editorial on Monday, the tabloid said the United States sought to avoid crossing Beijing’s “red line.”

The communist regime in Beijing considers the self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory, to be taken by force if necessary.

The inclusion of Taiwan’s representatives in the gathering of leaders from democratic governments last week already angered the CCP. Beijing was infuriated further after seeing it had been left off the guest list.

While the United States has an official relationship with Beijing, it remains Taiwan's most important international backer and arms supplier, which is required under a framework set out in the U.S. Congress's Taiwan Relations Act.

Meanwhile, Washington has a decades-long policy towards Taiwan, known as “strategic ambiguity.” It means that U.S. administrations have been deliberately vague on whether it will defend the island in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Reuters contributed to this report.