China’s sharp power the ‘greatest single challenge to Western-style democracies’


To those it seeks to influence, the Chinese Communist Party can be an intimidating presence. The China scholar Perry Link once called the party “the anaconda in the chandelier,” the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Browne notes. Dealing with the party’s coercive influence techniques is likely to become the greatest single challenge to Western-style democracies, he writes:

These include both passive bullying as well as active efforts to wage information warfare and infiltrate domestic politics—what the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy has dubbed “sharp power” as opposed to Western “soft power.” The goal is to shape favorable perceptions of the Communist regime and its policies abroad. …

For years, democracies have been naively complacent about these activities, confident of the inevitable triumph of the liberal order in the post-Cold War era. In Australia, party-affiliated Chinese tycoons have helped bankroll the two major political parties. Chinese state media now largely dictate coverage at virtually all of the country’s Chinese-language news outlets. Beijing’s diplomats keep tabs on Chinese students.


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