US President Joe Biden has invited about 110 countries and territories to a virtual summit on democracy in December, with those invited including major western allies as well as Iraq, India and Pakistan, a list posted on the State Department website showed.
The online gathering, scheduled for December 9-10, is an event Mr Biden vowed to host while running for president last year, with the goal of rallying like-minded countries around efforts to fight corruption and authoritarianism and advance human rights.
Among Middle Eastern countries, only Israel and Iraq were invited, while traditional Arab allies of the US were not. Turkey, which like America is a member of Nato, is also missing from the list of participants.
Mr Biden invited Brazil, even though its far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been criticised for having an authoritarian bent.
In Europe, Poland was invited to the summit despite persistent tension with the EU over its human rights record. Hungary, led by hardline nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, was not invited.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Nigeria and Niger are among the African countries on the list.
China was not invited, while Taiwan was — a move that has angered Beijing.
“China firmly opposes the invitation by the US to the Taiwan authorities to participate in the summit for democracy,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday at a press briefing in Beijing.
“There is only one China in the world and the government of the [People's Republic of China] is the sole legal government representing the whole of China,” he said.
In the end, some countries and territories 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".
The US president has frequently characterised democracy's battle against autocracy as an essential geopolitical challenge of the 21st century, including for the US itself.
Yet after recent developments, including former president Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his re-election defeat and the January 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 has fallen “victim to authoritarian tendencies itself and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale".