Australia's top diplomat has urged China not to dictate to smaller nations, saying Beijing cannot "set the terms" of its engagement with the world.
The secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Frances Adamson, has used a speech to warn that Australia faced increasingly urgent threats, including pandemics, climate change and mounting strategic uncertainty.
Ms Adamson said China's rapid rise had led to intensified competition between Washington and Beijing, creating an increasingly fraught strategic landscape for nations like Australia.
And she said Beijing now wanted to "lead" international organisations but that China had to expect "scrutiny and debate" as its power grew.
"The rest of the world has done a lot of thinking about China's power and what it means," she told the National Security College.
"But it is less apparent that China has carefully considered other countries' reactions to its conduct internationally."
Ms Adamson said China "may have reached a point where it believes that it can largely set the term of its future engagement with the world".
"If it has, I believe it is mistaken and that is because there is far more to be gained for China, and for everyone else, through working constructively and collaboratively within the international system, without resort to pressure or coercion."
Ms Adamson's speech comes at a delicate moment in the bilateral relationship.
Australia-China ties have been battered by increasingly rancorous disputes over trade, espionage, the coronavirus pandemic and China's human rights record.
Several Australian businesses have now stopped exporting to China after authorities targeted a range of Australian products, including timber, lobsters, barley and wine.
Last week, the Chinese Embassy in Canberra also issued a long list of grievances with Australia, drawing a contemptuous response from some officials in Canberra.
This week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison tried to reframe the increasingly hostile debate by praising China's economic achievements and urging it not to view the relationship through the prism of its contest with the United States.
Ms Adamson also used her speech to stress Australian sovereignty.
And she offered a blunt assessment of US power, saying while the United States remained a crucial force in the region and a vital ally, "the moment of a single global superpower has gone".
"As a culture, it remains incredibly attractive and powerful. But its internal challenges, as president-elect Biden has made clear, will be a priority for the incoming administration and will shape the character of its international engagement.
The secretary said the new strategic climate was less "comfortable" to Australia, and it would have to respond by intensifying its diplomacy to shape "a regional and global order that responds to the new realities of power".
"Inevitably, we are involved in a competition for influence because how the regional order evolves will profoundly shape our security and other interests," she said.
"If Australia did not have an agenda and exercise agency then we would have simply to accept the terms dictated by others."