While running for president, Joe Biden stated that once elected, he would take “immediate steps to renew our own democracy and alliances,” including organizing a global Summit for Democracy during his first year in office. Biden’s proposal is being welcomed by U.S. allies eager to see a stronger, more substantive democratic coalition.
“I think a community of democracies on a multilateral level would be a game changer internationally,” Irwin Cotler, former Canadian justice minister and attorney general, told audiences tuned in to a policy forum organized by a Canadian think tank last week.
Cotler, who has defended Nelson Mandela, Natan Sharansky and Liu Xiaobo as a renowned attorney, serves as a co-chair of the Canadian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a multilateral platform founded last year by lawmakers from around the world.
He credited the formation of IPAC as “a game changer” in slowing Beijing’s economic and diplomatic advances around the world. But, he added, even more valuable would be “an inter-governmental alliance” that would “dramatically increase the economic leverage of the community of democracies and counter the bullying of Beijing.”
Each individual nation, including Canada, would “feel more secure in being part of the necessary initiatives that can be taken” collectively by the community of democratic nations, Cotler said.
Stephen Kinnock is a lawmaker in Britain who serves as the Labour Party’s shadow minister for Asia and the Pacific. Britain is in need of a “fundamental reset in our China strategy,” he told the policy forum organized by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
The notion that “China would slowly but surely align with the norms and the rules of the international order” has been “a spectacular failure,” Kinnock said. Challenges associated with the rise of China under a communist leadership constitute “the primary issue the global community faces at the moment.”
The lawmaker pointed to an alliance that has emerged in Britain between his Labour Party and the ruling Conservatives on jointly confronting this challenge. The question of human rights in China and elsewhere isn’t “a question of Left or Right,” he told the audience, but rather “a question of right or wrong.”
Moving forward, he suggested that Britain adopt two “strategic pillars.”
“We’ve got to reduce our dependence on China’s supply chain, that means building our own technology base, working across democratic countries to do that. We’ve got to also become an alliance maker, rather than an alliance breaker, whatever your opinion on Brexit,” Kinnock added.
Reinhard Bütikofer, a German politician from the Green Party, serves as head of the European Parliament’s Delegation on Relations with the People’s Republic of China. He described Biden’s call for an alliance of democracies to challenge China’s violations of the international rules-based order as a “pertinent proposal” and expressed hope that it would go beyond “just an organizational idea.”
“I think what is most important is the practical dimension of having each other’s back between countries,” Bütikofer said in remarks delivered at last week’s conference.
“Apart from holding a big conference, apart from organizing maybe a new organization, if we don’t live the solidarity between democracies in everyday life, it doesn’t exist,” he said.
Biden’s idea of convening a “Summit of Democracies” “is important and timely,” Senator Kimberley Kitching, chair of Australia’s Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, told VOA in a written interview.
“When we look at the long arc of history, democracy is actually the exception to the rule, and needs to be vigilantly upheld and defended. Given its importance, I hope such a Summit is held in the not-too-distant future,” Kitching wrote.
Kitching described the Indo-Pacific region as being “at the coalface of [the Communist Party of China’s] assertiveness,” meaning, the region is in a position to have to deal with the challenge in real time.
“An incoming President Biden administration gives Australia an opportunity to keep building on our Alliance, which is documented by the ANZUS [the Australia, New Zealand and United States Security] Treaty but cemented by shared values and friendship,” she said, referring to the recently declassified U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy document as offering a chance for continuity of this approach.
Kitching also serves as Australian co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.
As a new Democrat-led administration takes over the White House on Wednesday, U.S. allies are eager to better understand the thinking of Democratic analysts and policymakers.
Carolyn Bartholomew is vice chairman of the US-China Economic and Security Commission and a former chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Describing herself as “an equal opportunity critic of both Democratic and Republican administrations” for “weaknesses and problems” in their China policy, Bartholomew credited the outgoing U.S. administration for its approach toward Beijing.
“For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Democrat. I will credit the Trump administration for one thing, and that is for raising the visibility of these ongoing concerns in the U.S.-China relationship,” Bartholomew said. She described some of the actions taken by the Trump administration as “embedded in principles that have to do with our interest, and support for basic freedoms in China, for making sure that China’s rise on the global stage is not just promoting authoritarianism worldwide.”
Bartholomew said she hopes the incoming Biden administration “will accept and continue some of the policies that the Trump administration has done,” adding, “I would expect that there would be some modifications” with regard to tactics, but not to the overall strategy.