Forget soft or hard power, China uses a different kind of power.
Posted on 25.6.2022 by John MacGhlionn
In the field of geopolitics, the word “power” is synonymous with acts of aggression, especially through military power and severe sanctions.
This is called “hard power”. Its less talked about younger brother, “soft power,” avoids coercion and threats. Proponents of the gentle approach prefer carrots to sticks; they prefer to advance towards their goals by taking advantage of interest and seduction.
Besides the “hard” and “soft” variants, there is another type of potency worth discussing. This is the “sharp power” – evil power – a type of influence that relies on manipulation tactics. Of course, we can’t talk about manipulation without talking about the Chinaa country that excels in the use of “sharp power”.
Coined by a Spanish journalist Juan Pablo Cardenal, the term sharp power implies its use as a weapon of information and Machiavellian games. According to the political scientist Jacques de Lisleauthoritarian regimes use this tactic to break through and penetrate “the political, media and social circles of the targeted countries in order to manipulate their policies and, in some cases, erode their political institutions”.
This is precisely what China – more specifically, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – is good at doing. If in doubt, let me mention the example of Hong Kong where freedom of expression no longer exists and where puppet politicians reign supreme.
It is interesting to note that Juan Pablo Cardenal coined the term sharp power while residing in hong kong. The “everyday experiences”as observed by a author, “quickly become the gateway to new thoughts and inspirations”. Mr. Cardenal’s worldview appears to have been profoundly shaped by his time in Hong Kong.
According to Christopher Walker, a expert who knows well the intricacies of sharp power, authoritarian states like the China and Russiae today use this kind of power to “to project their influence internationally, with the aim of limiting freedom of expression, creating confusion and distorting the political environment within democracies”.
For China and Russia, the use of smart power – which involves a mix of hard power and soft power – has proven to be very effective, especially in Africa, the fastest growing continent in the world. .
As Mr. Walker explains, sharp power involves “the use of manipulation to undermine the integrity of independent institutions”. By identifying and exploiting “the asymmetry between free and non-free systems”sharp power allows authoritarian regimes “to limit freedom of expression and distort the political environment in democratic countries”.
To find out more about this subject, I contacted Preethi Amaresh from the Geneva School of Diplomacy, a researcher who has devoted most of her professional life to the study of sharp power.
She told me that China, “being an undemocratic system”aggressively uses ” sharp power in Africa, Australia, Taiwan, the United States, etc. »
I asked him to describe some of the ways the CCP uses evil power in these countries. China, she replied, “uses it by scaring democracies”proceeding to the land grabbing in several countries, including in the Arctic and Antarctic regions” as part of its titanic program “Belt and Road Initiative”often referred to as the New Silk Road, as well as “by monitoring apps, by interfering in other countries’ domestic politics, and by Confucius Institutes.”
Mrs Amaresh directed me to an article she had written in 2020. In this article, titled “The Art of War: China’s Sharp Power Strategy,” she warned against the rhetoric used in China’s foreign and domestic policy. Chinese party-state that ultimately aims to advance its communist strategy.
She also cited the example of companies linked to the Chinese party-state that had entered into a partnership with Discovery Channel, an American cable channel owned by Warner Bros. What purpose ? In order to collaborate in “an international film co-production”. Entitled China: Time of Xi (China: the time of Xi), this film “was watched by millions of viewers in 37 countries in Asia”.
It can be seen that in its attempt to control the global rhetoric, the CCP is aided by large and powerful Western corporations.
I asked Ms. Amaresh if she had observed a shift in Beijing’s use of sharp power. She replied that the CCP is constantly adding new strings to its bow – for example, wolf fighter diplomacy, debt trap politics, mask diplomacy, and “slices of salami” tactics.
The last represents a very effective strategy that sees the CCP resort to minor provocations, none of which are large enough to start a real war. However, when these provocations add up, they have a significant impact on the sovereignty of a rival nation, like death by a thousand cuts.
Mrs Amaresh thinks that “China wants to bring its civilization and power back to the forefront of the world” through ” several initiatives such as the New Silk Road, the exploitation of Mandarin Chinese, land grabbing, etc. »
China, she added, “is now considered the new imperial dynasty, and Xi Jinping as the current emperor”he is the “leader for life” from the country.
As China seeks to dominate the world, we can expect sharp power to become an even more potent weapon.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His writings have been published in journals such as the New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, The Spectator US and other respectable media. He specializes in psychology and social relations, with a particular interest in the areas of social dysfunction and media manipulation.