In an address in Singapore titled "Change and Uncertainty in the Indo-Pacific" on Monday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned China of the importance of democratic institutions.
Referring to China as one of the "non-democracies," the foreign minister urged ASEAN members to champion democratic norms and institutions in the region, arguing "domestic democratic habits of negotiating and compromise are essential to powerful countries resolving their disagreements according to international law and rules." Furthermore, Bishop called on the US to "play an even greater role as the indispensable strategic power in the Indo-Pacific."
Bishop's views are representative among the Western world - that China would not abide by international rules because of its undemocratic domestic habits and therefore it is unfit to be a regional leader.
China has its own style of political system, although it's different from the West's. It's unfair to label the country as non-democratic just because it has opted for a different democratic system. The ongoing two sessions are an embodiment of Chinese democracy. Representatives and deputies elected from all walks of life have gathered to participate in the decision-making process about national and societal development. The political stability and economic prosperity of the past decades have proven the success and effectiveness of the democratic system of China.
By using the excuse of democracy, the Australian foreign minister is actually justifying the undemocratic US supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region. The present system in the Asia-Pacific region is dominated by the US, under which China's rise is contained and conflicts between the US and China have been intensified. The peaceful development of the Asia-Pacific requires a new political, economic and security pattern, and needs to create more room for the development of new emerging countries like China.
China has constructively participated in the international system. There is no reason for the country to sabotage the current system under which it has been rising. However, reforms are needed to the current undemocratic system since it has failed to keep up with the times. China is striving to promote the existing system to evolve in a fairer and more reasonable direction.
The system advocated by Bishop in which the US should play an even greater role will not address problems, but will intensify confrontation with China. This will harm Australia's development. For Australia, not taking sides between China and the US serves its best interests.