WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – The Biden administration included Taiwan among the 110 invitees to its upcoming democracy summit, the State Department announced on Tuesday (Nov 23) night, a move that is intended to show solidarity with a key regional partner but risks angering China.

Taiwan was invited to join nations, including the UK and Japan, at the Dec 9-10 virtual summit, the State Department said on its website on Tuesday.

The online gathering is an event President Joe Biden vowed to host during his election campaign last year, with the goal of rallying like-minded countries around efforts to fight corruption and authoritarianism and advance human rights.

The final list leaves out several ostensible US partners such as Turkey, a member of Nato, underscoring the challenge the administration faced in pinning down the invitees.

Including Taiwan may be the most controversial decision the administration has made about the summit, even though the island does have one of Asia’s more vibrant and free-wheeling democracies.

That’s because only a handful of nations – the US not among them – recognise it as sovereign. China has assailed nations, companies and international organisations that treat the island as an independent entity.

Most recently, Beijing downgraded ties with Lithuania’s government after Taiwan opened a diplomatic office in the Baltic nation.

Taiwan’s inclusion follows a series of steps the Biden administration has taken in recent weeks to demonstrate its support for a key ally even as it seeks to ratchet down tensions with Beijing, which claims the self-governing island as its own territory.

China has increased military flights near Taiwan and some analysts have warned that President Xi Jinping may be preparing for an invasion in coming years.

Mr Biden’s planning for the summit has also proved to be a challenge as the administration has grappled with questions over which other countries to invite and which to leave out. The final guest list reflects that challenge: Invitees included Brazil, the Philippines and Poland, all countries that have arguably seen democratic backsliding.

In the end, some countries that were invited appeared to be on the list more as an inducement to institute more democratic principles rather than because they fit neatly into the category of “democracy”. Angola, Pakistan and Serbia also made the list.

Another sore spot was the Middle East, where the US struggled to find any invitees aside from Israel. In the end, Iraq was also included.

Mr Biden has frequently characterised democracies’ battle against autocracies as an essential geopolitical challenge of the 21st century. In a speech to Congress in April, he said the US must push back against Mr Xi and other leaders who seek to show that their system of government is better for their people.

“He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world,” Mr Biden said at the time, referring to Mr Xi. “He and others – autocrats – think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies because it takes too long to get consensus.”

Yet after developments, including former President Donald Trump’s continuing refusal to accept his re-election defeat and the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol by some of his supporters, critics have questioned the state of American democracy.

The Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance issued a report on Monday that said the US “fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale”.