Democracy promotion: ANZUS and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


The United States’ Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy puts forward a vision for the region in which states are free to make sovereign economic and strategic decisions without coercion, where liberal values and good governance principles are practiced, where freedom of the commons is respected, and where open trade and investment environments are maintained. The core aim of this strategy is to defend the post-World War II US-led liberal democratic order from being eroded in the region as a result of actions and policies of autocratic states. The US National Security Strategy of 2017 names China as the principal ‘revisionist’ actor in the region whose actions and policies have already challenged key aspects of the liberal order. To promote the virtues of its authoritarian model as a superior alternative for developing nations, China has supported autocratic regimes around the world, including throughout the Indo-Pacific where its efforts are underwriting autocratic resilience and democratic stagnation. Democracy promotion is an important and currently under-appreciated counter-strategy to China’s autocracy promotion, a trend which undermines key elements of the common US and Australian vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. In terms of an increased emphasis on democracy promotion as an element of statecraft, Southeast Asia is the major regional battleground of high importance to the United States and Australia, given recent anti-democratic trends. Strengthening institutions which enhance accountability, good governance, civil participation and national resilience in vulnerable liberal democratic states in Southeast Asia is key. This reduces the opportunity for autocratic governments to use foreign aid and investment to exert geopolitical and strategic influence over the sovereign decisions of recipient governments in ways that compromise the long-term national interest of that country. In Southeast Asia, Australia should focus on partnering with Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand to strengthen the institutions referred to above for strategic, institutional and resourcing reasons.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSydney, Australia
PublisherUnited States Studies Centre
Commissioning bodyUnited States Studies Centre (USYD)
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • US Foreign Policy
  • Australian Foreign Policy
  • Democracy Promotion
  • Autocracy Promotion
  • US-Sino relations
  • US-Australia foreign relations
  • global governance
  • Southeast Asian Politics
  • Liberal Democracy
  • Autocratic Capitalism


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