More Information

Mark Triffitt
+61 413 876 810


Ryan Sheales
(Media office)
+61 3 8344 3845
0402 351 412

 Read the report
► Watch the video
 Download full program

China is unlikely to ever adopt a Western-style democracy because the West is "no longer suitable" for the modern age, University of Melbourne research has concluded.

The paper, ‘China in an Age of Radical Modernity: Why the World’s Most Populous Nation Won’t Become Liberal’ will be presented at the Melbourne School of Government's Public Policy in the Asian Century conference.

In it, policy analyst and University of Melbourne lecturer Mark Triffitt argues Western-style democracies — including Australia's — are outdated and "increasingly unable" to develop forward-looking policy programs to manage contemporary problems and issues.

"Our system is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ for the 21st century. In fact, it is becoming increasingly stranded from the contemporary world.

“It’s increasingly struggling to effectively represent the fast-moving, ever-changing political aspirations and voices of 21st century voters and solve the big public policy questions of our time," according to Mr Triffitt.

“These deep problems are evident in declining citizen trust and participation in the Western system, as well as growing perceptions and realities of policy gridlock and dysfunctional partisanship.

Mr Triffitt said the question asked about China’s political future should not be when will the world’s most populous nation become a Western-style democracy.

‘The real question is why would China seek to replicate our political system that is increasingly seen to be failing?"

The paper further argues that despite China's reputation as largely undemocratic, it is quietly pioneering new forms of political participation.

"Lift the rock on China’s one-party system and we see that China is undergoing a major political transformation which has the potential to turn established notions of democracy on their head,” he said.

“This new system appears to be based on direct citizen engagement — including upwards of 400,000 grass-roots meetings and consultations with citizens each year — and less focused on adversarial politics.”

“These are the sorts of innovations which Western democracies try to adopt through cabinet consultations and town-hall meetings.

Before completing his PhD this year,  Mr Triffitt worked for 20 years in senior policy and communications advisory roles to Australian political and corporate leaders.

The Public Policy in the Asian Century conference will feature more than 20 presentations on the challenges and opportunities presented by the so-called Asian Century. Speakers have been invited from across the Asia Pacific region, and include;

  • Peter Harris AO (Chairman, Productivity Commission), 
  • Dr Guanghua Wan (Principal Economist, Asian Development Bank),
  • John Brumby (COAG Chairman)
  • Professor Chung Min Lee (South Korea's Ambassador for National Security Affairs)