On October 2, GMF convened experts from the policy, diplomatic, academic, and media communites for a discussion entitled the democratic challenge to a Chinese century: how Asia-Pacific democracies are forming a pluralistic regional order, and what it means for the West. The discussion was led by Daniel Twining, Transatlantic Fellow at GMF, and Robert Sutter, Visiting Professor at Georgetown University.
At issue was the Asia-Pacific response to the emerging regional dominance of an authoritarian China. It was suggested that free nations in the region are beginning to form coalitions based on shared democratic values, and that this new cooperation has the potential to create a new, values-based geopolitics in Asia. In these new coalitions, democracies in the region are attempting to recreate the "peace of the West," with post-Cold War Europe and its major institutions as a model. Key to the success of this emerging democratic entente is sustained support from the transatlantic community, which should recognize the partnership of Asia-Pacific democracies as vital to challenging the rise of authoritarianism and protecting Western interests in the region.
Many participants warned that while new democratic cooperation in Asia could help deepen partnerships with the West, all parties will need to tread carefully. Some suggested that a values-based polarization of the region would force the Asia-Pacific democracies into an unecessary choice between Western and Chinese sympathies, a choice that to some seemed based on an overestimation of the real extent of Chinese power. These participants suggested that thanks to a strong American security presence in the region and the entrenched economic cooperation between China and the West, democracies across Asia should recognize that the driving factors in regional power dynamics will be development and relative stability, rather than clashing ideologies.