Authoritarian Sharp Power: Comparing China and Russia

The notion and practices of “sharp power” are increasingly grabbing our attention. This is so as the ascent of sharp power is taking place amidst the recent retreat of liberalism, and as authoritarian states, China and Russia in particular, vigorously attempt to expand their influence across the globe, utilizing any available means of power, whether soft, hard, or something in between.

Sharp power, a notion first introduced in a report by the National Endowment for Democracy published in December 2017,1 refers to the ability to affect others to obtain desired outcomes not through attraction, as in the case of soft power, but through distraction and manipulation of information. Often involved in the exertion of sharp power are attempts by the government to guide, buy, or coerce political influence, and control discussion of sensitive topics globally, typically through nontransparent and questionable, if not outright illegal, means. Sharp power is often employed covertly, and it may be useful to define activities that involve sharp power as “foreign political influence operations” (FPIO) in distinction from public diplomacy which is conducted in legitimate and transparent ways. It is difficult in the real world, however, to distinguish FPIO from public diplomacy and sharp power from soft power, as both use the same soft power assets such as media, culture, diaspora, and value-based discourses and narratives. The two are differentiated mostly based on “how” those assets are employed and utilized in their implementation process.

Although China and Russia are neither the first nor the only countries that have utilized sharp power thus defined,2 innovations in information technology of this century, as well as the arrival of the so-called “post-truth” era, in which people’s views are shaped more by passions and prejudices than truth, provide a fertile soil for these authoritarian countries to enhance their communicative power in the international arena. Indeed, the Internet and social media play a crucial role in spreading both information and disinformation as they have become a source of news in and of itself over the last few years. Nothing has to even happen in the real world to become newsworthy anymore. People just meme things into reality. Once posted, their memes and momentum live on well after the initial posts have been removed.

Another important force propelling the rise of sharp power is the geopolitical ambitions and aspirations of China and Russia. Geopolitical muscle-flexing has been increasingly evident in the two countries’ external behavior, particularly since Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term in Russia and Xi Jinping’s ascent to power in China. When their geopolitical aspirations are combined with the new technological ecosystem, sharp power is set to emerge as an important instrument of their foreign policy.

What Messages to Disseminate? China and Russia’s Meta-narratives

Sharp power is also rising in the global context of international identity politics, which is unfolding most evidently in the upsurge of nationalist populism. Elements of different identities – national, racial, religious, and ideational – are articulated in international society through legitimate and illegitimate, overt and covert, transparent and nontransparent, ways. Amidst the identity politics, China and Russia uphold alternatives to liberalism, and competition between the states accordingly spurs a battle of values and ideas. As liberal democracies are showing strong signs of institutional decay, authoritarian populists are starting to develop ideological alternatives, and outright autocrats are offering their citizens a standard of living that increasingly rivals that of the richest countries in the West. Firmly founded on economic, as well as military, clout, authoritarian states are now confidently ready to pose a values-based challenge to the international norms promoted by the Western powers since the Second World War.

Accordingly, unmistakably noticeable in today’s public diplomacy is not simply a representation of a country’s national identity in its language, history, and culture, but also the ideas and values for which a nation strives to stand in international society. Ideas and values are often constructed as discourse and “strategic narratives,” the latter being defined as “a means for political actors to construct a shared meaning of the past, present, and future of international relations in order to shape the opinions and behavior of actors at home and abroad.”3 Strategic narratives understood in this way are a tool for political actors to extend their influence, manage expectations, and change the discursive environment in which they operate, and can shape their interests, identities, and understanding of how international relations works and where it heads. 

Seen in this conceptual prism, China’s strategic narratives, particularly in the Xi Jinping era, appear to be composed of two elements: the vision of the “China Dream” and traditional Chinese values focused on Confucianism. Overcoming the historical injustice of the “century of humiliation” forced by Western imperialism and Japanese militarism, China, through a “hundred-year marathon,” would reclaim its “rightful place” of the past as the Middle Kingdom, or Central State. By 2050 when China achieves the two centennial goals – the goal of achieving a “moderately prosperous society” by 2021, the centennial of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and the goal of achieving a “completely developed state” by 2049, the centennial of the People’s Republic of China – China will have attained a great power status as a global leader, thus realizing the dream of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” In his work report at the 19th National Congress of the CPC held last October, Xi declared that, while Mao attained China’s independence from colonialism and Deng realized economic prosperity, he would make China strong again in a new era.4

At the same time, the CPC underscores traditional values revolving around Confucianism. As Xi in his speech at the international conference celebrating the 2,565th birthday of Confucius emphasized, Chinese traditional culture represented by Confucianism has provided stable values for enhancing social solidarity and national identity.5 The CPC considers the restoration of traditional values integral to the “core socialist values” keeping Chinese people from being contaminated by a corrupt Western liberal ideology. China’s global domination is justified with the traditional notion of tianxia, or “all under heavens,” in which the world is ruled by the Chinese emperor, around which all else revolves, and from where China would spread harmony through its culture, language, and values – a Sinocentric empire that values order over freedom, ethics over law, and elite governance over democracy and human rights.6

Russia’s meta-narratives also consist of two elements: Eurasianism associated with Russia’s great power aspirations on the one hand, and traditional and conservative values on the other. Eurasianism that had originated from Russian émigré intellectuals in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s has rebounded since the 1990s in response to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and developed into different streams that include Aleksandr Dugin’s ideology on the far-right side of the political spectrum.7 Different versions of Eurasianism, however, share some commonalities, such as perceiving the Eurasian space as an independent civilization distinct from the West as well as Asia; a pan-Eurasian civilizational identity accommodating multiple nations and ethnic groups living in the Eurasian space, which collectively constitutes a “community of historical destiny” on the basis of shared history and cultural affinity; and the fundamental confrontation between Russia-Eurasia and the West, with the former being a civilizational alternative to the latter. Putin has kept some distance from the far-right version of Eurasianism; but especially during his third presidential term, he has accommodated some Eurasianist elements as reflected in his flagship project, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

In his speech at the 2013 Valdai Discussion Club, Putin defined the EEU as a “project for the defense of the identity of peoples of a historical Eurasian space in a new century and a new world,” and contended that “Eurasian integration is the entire post-Soviet space’s chance to become an independent center of global development, and not just a periphery of Europe or of Asia.”8 Putin’s Eurasianism underscores Russian identity as a “state-civilization” and alternative to Western civilization, extolling the virtues of Russian civilization and casting Russia as a bastion of traditional conservative values that serve as a source of its national attractiveness, in contrast to the decadent morality of the West. Russia’s role is, in this light, identified as a “besieged fortress” of conservative values revolving around the three core notions of family, nation, and Christianity against Western values.

Beijing and Moscow appear to have normative affinities, sharing similar views on the current geopolitical situation and the common prospects for a new world order, evolving from a world unified on Western terms based on Western principles and values towards a polycentric system of international relations, in which several new non-Western centers of power are seeking opportunities to coordinate efforts as a counterweight to the Western predominance.9 These normative affinities are drawing the two countries closer together, which is reflected not only in their recent rapprochement, but also in their employing and exerting sharp power.

Sharp Power in Different Realms

China and Russia are propagating their discursive strategic narratives, which contain elements of illiberal values and worldviews, in various areas of soft/sharp power assets as summarized in Table 1.

Table 1.  China and Russia: FPIO/PD in Different Areas of Soft/Sharp Power Assets

Areas of activity




  • China Dream
  • Traditional Confucian values
  • Sinocentric worldview
  • Eurasianism
  • Conservatism and traditional values


  • Media offensive
  • Utilizing local media companies through buying-up and “borrowed boat” strategy
  • Media offensive (“alternative” channels)
  • Disinformation campaign utilizing social media


  • Utilizing diaspora organizations/Chinese-language media and CSSAs as both agent and target
  • The notion of “Russkii mir” evolving from a cultural community to geopolitical spheres of influence


  • Confucius Institutes disseminating official views
  • Self-censorship

Political pressures/cooptation

  • Direct & indirect political pressure
  • Economic incentives
  • Self-censorship
  • Encouraging Chinese compatriots’ political participation
  • Utilizing and amplifying local division and discord
  • Coalescing with local “natural allies”


China has been vigorous in its international media initiative since 2009 when almost $9 billion was invested in the state-run Big Four – China Central TV(CCTV), China Radio International (CRI), China Daily, and Xinhua News Agency. This media offensive has only intensified under Xi Jinping, who in his unusual tour to CCTV, Xinhua, and People’s Daily in February 2016, underscored the need to enhance international communicative capabilities and build a media flagship, urging reporters to “tell China’s story and transmit China’s voice.” At a subsequent meeting with senior party and propaganda officials, Xi was reported to have stressed the importance of the CPC’s leadership in “news and public opinion work” to increase the “influence and credibility” of the party’s message.10

Chinese international media disseminate official narratives of the CPC and government, dilute the West’s “biased” description of China, and construct a friendly image of China. For this purpose, alongside international broadcasting, China’s state-run media companies supply free news contents and other programs to local media companies and engage in joint production, technical cooperation, and journalist exchanges with them. These exchanges and cooperation programs function as an important medium to boost positive images of China in their reporting and broadcasting. China also employs “cover” companies to hide behind. According to a Reuters investigation, CRI retains as of 2015 its ownership stakes in at least 33 local media companies in 14 countries through three local partners,11 60 percent of each being owned by the Guoguang Century Media Consultancy located in Beijing, which is in turn owned by a CRI subsidiary. The three partners buy local media companies or utilize the “borrowed boat” strategy, by which they rent air time. These owned or rented media companies broadcast positive views on China in English, Chinese, and local languages.

Russia has also been active in its overseas media offensive since the 2008 Georgian war, but notably shifted its focus from introducing Russia towards criticizing the West. RT, a successor to the state-run news channel Russia Today, for example, under the slogan of “Question More,” endeavors to amplify distrust in Western governments by exposing the sore spots of Western society. Declaring itself an “alternative channel,” RT tries to build up Russia’s image as a leader of resistance, often employing conspiracy theories to appeal to the audience in its flagship programs such as Breaking the Set and The Truthseeker.12 Just like China’s state media, RT also engages in cooperation with local media companies on the Internet, technologies, and information and journalist exchanges, while supplying them with news contents and programs. RT and Sputnik, an Internet-based news agency launched in 2013 incorporating RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia, also provide free contents for local fringe media of the far-right and far-left, particularly in East and Central European countries, whose loose networks function as an important echo chamber for Russia’s anti-Western narratives.

Notable in Russia’s media offensive is its “(dis)information warfare” on the Internet and social media, employing trolls and bots as demonstrated in the Ukrainian crisis and its meddling in the 2016 American presidential campaign.13 In Russia’s media offensive, the boundaries are often blurred between authentic journalist activities and covert intelligence operations, which combine information leaking through professional cyberattacks and hacking, publicization of the leaked information via such third parties as and WikiLeaks, and dissemination of the information dubbed with Russia’s views and narratives through RT and Sputnik. 

Overseas diasporas are considered another significant asset for sharp power. Beijing has recently turned its attention to the 60-million strong Chinese diaspora both as an agent and target of its foreign policy. The CPC’s United Front Work Department has been in charge of diaspora affairs, together with the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office at the government level.14 The United Front Work Department views overseas Chinese as important assistants not only for promoting and implementing Beijing’s policies such as the Belt and Road Initiative, but also for countering the anti-Chinese activities of overseas dissenters, namely human rights and democratic activists, as well as Tibetan “separatists” and advocates of Taiwan independence. Chinese diaspora associations often organize counter-demonstrations against anti-Chinese rallies by Falun Gong and pro-Tibetan groups. Emphasizing “patriotic education,” the Chinese Education Ministry announced guidelines in 2016 to build up multi-dimensional networks between mainland China, Chinese foreign students, and foreign missions. In the United States, there are almost 150 Chinese students and scholars associations (CSSAs), which are becoming increasingly assertive against those speeches, lectures and other activities on and off campus that are critical to China.15

The coverage by overseas Chinese-language media of official Beijing is an important part of Beijing’s long-term strategy to create favorable public opinion globally for the CPC’s agenda. Aiming to forge close ties with overseas Chinese media, Beijing has been hosting the World Chinese Media Forum since 2001 and has created the World Chinese-Language Media Cooperative Alliance at the 2009 Forum to enhance communications. Overseas Chinese media often closely echo China’s own heavily regulated and censored newspapers and avoid sensitive political topics that might offend Beijing.16

Moscow’s approach to the Russian diaspora, on the other hand, is more geopolitically oriented and well reflected in the evolution of the notion of Russkii mir (Russian World). It first appeared in the 1990s to refer to the loose cultural networks of those who speak Russian language and identify themselves as Russian. The notion has since evolved during Putin’s third presidential term to insinuate Russia’s geopolitical sphere of influence, with the irredentist elements being added especially since the annexation of Crimea. Russkii mir is now often employed as a rationale for justifying Russia’s foreign intervention to protect resident Russians.17 A Russian narrative, for example, says: “Crimea, with its large Russian population, was most at risk, so Russian forces had to enter and accept the popular will of the Crimean people to be annexed. Nor could Russia prevent patriotic volunteers and military-intelligence officers from crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border to aid their “Russian World” brethren in their ‘civil war’ against Ukrainian extremists.”18

Cultural assets, traditional sources of soft power, are also utilized in sharp power. China’s cultural charm offensive is well represented by the rapid spread of Confucius Institutes (CIs) across the globe since their initiation in 2004. There are now over 500 CIs and 1,000 Confucius classes, which not only purvey Chinese language and culture abroad, but also run academic exchange programs providing grants and scholarships for foreign academics. CIs also present the “official version of China” as prescribed by the CPC, and its curriculum naturally excludes “sensitive” issues such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, Tiananmen, Falun Gong, and human rights in China. As the Hanban (Office of Chinese Language Council International) under the Chinese Education Ministry has the power to approve annual budget projects of local CIs, local partner institutions and experts are under the implicit pressure of self-censorship, fearing interruption of financial streams from Beijing and possible harmful effects on individual professional careers.19

Beijing also exerts direct and indirect political pressure on the activities that are critical to China, while trying to co-opt local opinion leaders to promote China’s perspectives and positions on critical issues. In co-option, economic incentives are often employed, and overseas Chinese residents are encouraged to participate in local politics. Chinese businessmen with implicit and explicit ties to the CPC or other state agencies are often involved in co-opting local politicians and academic institutions through political and financial donations.20

Incriminator versus Narcissist

China’s and Russia’s sharp power activities could be compared as in Table 2.

Table 2.  China and Russia: Implementation of Sharp Power





  • State (government and CPC)-initiated
  • State-initiated


  • Control of “sensitive” issues
  • Justification of the CPC rule
  • Presenting Sinocentric worldviews
  • Discrediting Western political and economic system
  • Amplifying internal division and discord
  • Providing alternative values


  • Media, diaspora, culture, and political pressure
  • Co-option
  • Economic incentives
  • Self-censorship
  • Media, diaspora, culture, and political pressure
  • Co-option
  • Disinformation campaign


  • Foreign publics
  • Local opinion leaders (politicians, think tanks, academic institutes, journalists, etc.)
  • Chinese diaspora as both agent and target
  • Foreign publics
  • Local opinion leaders and “natural allies” (politicians, think tanks, academic institutes, journalists, etc.)


In its FPIO employing sharp power, Russia is notably taking a negative approach, as it focuses on undercutting the credibility of the target country’s political and economic institutions and amplifying inner tensions and discord of the local society, while proposing a more ideological alternative to Western values. Facebook’s disclosure in 2017, for example, shows that Russian sources spent thousands of dollars on advertisements on divisive social and political topics, ranging from LGBT matters, race relations, immigration issues, to gun rights.21 Russia’s approach runs directly counter to the conventional wisdom in journalism that emphasizes the importance of truth, credibility, and the avoidance of contradiction as it features the language of emotions and judgement, and not necessarily of facts. This is only possible in an era of post-truth. The tactic of using false news has been seen in many places in Eastern and Western Europe. For example, the report aired at primetime on Russia’s Channel One on January 17, 2016 claimed that a Russian-speaking girl was abducted and attacked in the German capital by immigrants and that German police attempted to cover up the incident. The channel was criticized in 2013, after broadcasting a fake report claiming that Ukrainian soldiers had crucified a three-year old boy.22 Russia’s information campaign is actively using Europe’s refugee crisis and galvanizing pro-Russian audiences to destabilize governments that are hostile to Russia. In many European countries, Russia finds “natural allies” in local anti-liberal, far-right, or far-left forces, as well as in Catholic churches and NGOs upholding conservative values. Particularly in Baltic and Central European countries, Moscow often resorts to the historical conflicts of the past – for example, the “resurgence of Nazism” narratives in Latvia, and the Volhynia massacre of Poles by Ukrainian extreme nationalists in the Second World War.23

Moscow is particularly adept at weaving networks of different sources in social media employing bots and trolls. RT is not inventing popular mistrust in Western democracy, but rather utilizing a loose network, or echo chamber, that connects conventional and social media, the Internet, and local fringe media outlets to amplify inner divisions and mistrust in institutions that already exist. As Russia takes a more aggressive geopolitical stance, Russian information warfare is set to continue as a part of wider and longer-standing efforts to sow discord among Western communities. In this light, Russia’s sharp power is geopolitical and anti-liberal in nature, and manifests as a rivalry against the West.

In contrast, China’s sharp power is more concerned with justifying the CPC’s domestic rule and controlling discussions of sensitive issues abroad, but its proposed alternative is more egocentric. When Xi Jinping contended at the 19th National Party Congress that a “socialist system with Chinese characteristics” would be a new choice for those developing countries that are seeking economic development and independence simultaneously, he was effectively proposing as an alternative to liberalism the China model of party-centered and state-led development and governance. Increased authoritarianism at home, and particularly a concentration of power in the CPC and in the hands of Xi Jinping, radiates outward into the international realm, being expressed as assertiveness of behavior and sharpness of power. Xi has in fact eliminated the dividing line between domestic and foreign policy. Now that the country is exporting its political values and norms, China’s governance model is at front and center in its foreign policy. Sensitive issues are nothing but grave challenges to the CPC authorities and to Chinese sovereign integrity, which should be contained at any cost both domestically and overseas. Beijing relentlessly seeks to undermine anything and everything opposed to the CPC at home and abroad.

The boundaries between soft power and hard power, however, are often blurred. It is hard to distinguish one from the other solely in terms of specific assets employed, and the differences between the two are only revealed depending on in what ways and with what intentions the assets are utilized. Therefore, in conducting FPIO it is often the case that sharp power is intermingled with soft power and hard power. Both China and Russia take a hybrid approach to FPIO: While Beijing tends to combine sharp power with direct and indirect economic incentives that include financial support, donations, and access to Chinese markets, Moscow combines cyberattacks and military operations with sharp power, as clearly demonstrated in its “hybrid warfare” concept24 and exemplified by its meddling in American presidential elections and the Ukrainian crisis. China, in particular, pursues a “package approach,” or “comprehensive engagement,” under which Beijing brings economic, political, and soft and sharp power together to bear in a coordinated manner.25 The combination of close personal relationships, coupled with threats of punishment, is also the standard Chinese modus operandi.

Another notable fact is that soft power and sharp power are relative notions. Both China and Russia see Western soft power containing liberal values as a malign and manipulative instrument of foreign policy – in other words, sharp power. Western soft power is nothing but a facade for upholding the West’s dominance and justifying its meddling in the internal affairs of other countries under the guise of promoting liberal democracy and human rights. Beijing and Moscow, seeing the West’s promotion of political and/or cultural values and institutions as dire threats to their regime security as well as society, have promulgated a series of laws imposing stringent restrictions on NGOs and gay “propaganda.” Russia, in particular, framing its soft power as a counterforce to Western soft power to protect its national interest and values, proposes a civilizational alternative to the liberal norms and values. Seen in this light, what one sees as soft power, the other would prefer to see as sharp power, as in: “Our truth is your propaganda.”


Three issues can be raised regarding the recent ascent of China and Russia’s sharp power. The first issue is obviously the challenge posed to the liberal international order. When Beijing and Moscow, employing sharp power, continue to propagate illiberal values and expand their influence in advocacy of the non-liberal order, the liberal international order cannot but be confronted with a serious “revisionist” challenge. However, one cannot blame China or Russia simply for the fact that their proposed alternative values and worldviews are different from, and run counter to, those of the liberalist, since from their perspectives their discourse and narratives are obviously their communicative soft power. The problem for liberals, then, is how to counter their value-based offensives by rectifying the inner drawbacks of liberalism. It is high time to contemplate, and act, on what has gone wrong with the liberal international order since the “triumphant” 1990s. The liberal governance must be seen to be more equitable and open than the illiberal one. That would be the best antidote to the perforating authoritarian sharp power.

This leads to the second question on the politics of inclusionary versus exclusionary identity. The upholders of different values and worldviews should not necessarily be pitted against each other. If so, we can hardly avoid the clash of values and ideas, if not of civilizations. Our task must be to turn the exclusionary identity politics currently unfolding in the international arena into an inclusionary one, foremost by recognizing difference, and then devising mechanisms to accommodate and coexist peacefully with the other. Demonizing the other, a bad legacy of classic geopolitical dichotomy, should no longer be a fault line dividing the world into confronting blocs. A zero-sum outlook on world politics is destined to lead to antagonism and rivalry.

The third issue is the way in which China and Russia propagate their values. If they continue to rely on non-transparent and illegitimate means to promote their discourse and narratives, appropriate countermeasures should be taken thoroughly—legal countermeasures being one example. Last March, a pair of bills was put forth in the US Congress – the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act and the Foreign Influence Transparency Act – which aimed to increase transparency requirements for foreign media outlets and government-backed institutions vying for influence in the United States. This represents the latest attempt by American legislators to respond to foreign propaganda and influence peddling in the United States. Similar legislative measures are also being taken in Australia to prevent foreign meddling in Australian politics. Another is devising proactive measures to counter disinformation campaigns. In May 2016, for instance, Anne Applebaum, a Washington Post columnist, and Edward Lucas, a senior editor at The Economist, launched a counter-disinformation initiative at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Its mission includes monitoring, collecting, analyzing, rebutting, and exposing what they see as the Kremlin’s propaganda in Central and Eastern European countries.

In reality, oftentimes there is a gap between what Russia and China say in their discourse and what they do in foreign policy, and a real weakness of their value offensives emanates from this discrepancy between their great power aspirations and actual behavior. Lofty goals cannot be justified by illicit and nontransparent instruments, and when the “sharpness” of their power is revealed, it will do more harm than benefit to their very discourse and geopolitical aspirations. Whether or not their sharp power is effective will likely be determined by how such discrepancies are tackled.

1. Christopher Walker, Jessica Ludwig, et al., “Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence,” National Endowment for Democracy (December 2017).

2. For some American cases of the past, see Ishaan Tharoor, “The Long History of the U.S. Interfering with Elections Elsewhere,” The Washington Post, October 13, 2016; Thomas Carothers, “Is the U.S. Hypocritical to Criticize Russian Election Meddling?” Foreign Affairs, March 12, 2108.

3. Alister Miskimmon, Ben O’Loughlin, and Laura Roselle, Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order (New York: Routledge, 2013).

4. Xi Jinping’s report at the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party,’s_report_at_19th_CPC_National_Congress.pdf.

5. Zhang Pengfei, “China Commemorates Confucius with High-Profile Ceremony,” English, September 25, 2014,

6. William A. Callahan, “Chinese Visions of World Order: Post-hegemonic or A New Hegemony?” International Studies Review, no. 10, 2008, p. 753.

7. Mark Bassin and Gonzalo Pozo, eds., The Politics of Eurasianism: Identity, Popular Culture and Russia’s Foreign Policy (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017); David Lane and Vsevolod Samokhvalov, eds., The Eurasian Project and Europe: Regional Discontinuities and Geopolitics (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); and Mikhail Suslov and Mark Bassin, eds., Eurasia 2.0: Russia Geopolitics in the Age of New Media (New York: Lexington Books, 2016).

8. Vladimir Putin’s speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club in September 2013,

9. Aleksander Lukin, China and Russia: The New Rapprochement (New York: Polity, 2018).

10. David Bandurski, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall,” China Media Project, February 22, 2016,

11. The three local partners appear to cover different global regions: GBTimes of Tampere in Finland for Europe, Global CAMG Media Group in Melbourne for Asia-Pacific, and G&E Studio Inc. in Los Angeles for North America. Koh Gui Qing and John Shiffman, “Beijing’s Covert Radio Network Airs China-friendly News across Washington, and the World,” Reuters Investigates, November 2, 2015,

12. Ilya Yablokov, “Conspiracy Theories as a Russian Public Diplomacy Tool: The Case of Russia Today (RT),” Politics 35, nos. 3-4 (2015).

13. Intelligence Community Assessment, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” ICA 2017-01D, January 6, 2017.

14. James Kynge, Lucy Hornby, and Jamil Anderlini, “Inside China’s Secret ‘Magic Weapon’ for Worldwide Influence,” Financial Times, October 26, 2017.

15. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, “Chinese Government Gave Money to Georgetown Chinese Student Group,” Foreign Policy, February 14, 2018; “China’s Long Arm Reaches into American Campuses,” Foreign Policy, March 7, 2018.

16. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimaian, “Beijing Builds Its Influence in the American Media,” Foreign Policy, December 21, 2017.

17. Mikhail Suslov, “Russian World Concept: Post-Soviet Geopolitical Ideology and the Logic of Spheres of Influence,” Geopolitics, 2018, DOI: 10.1080/14650045.2017.1407921.

18. NATO Stratcom, “Internet Trolling as a Tool of Hybrid Warfare: The Case of Latvia,” Center of Excellence, January 25, 2016,

19. Rachelle Peterson, “Outsourced to China: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education,” Report by the National Association of Scholars, April 2017.

20. For details on the Australian case, see Clive Hamilton, Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia (Melbourne: Hardie Grant Books, 2018).

21. Scott Shane and Vindu Goel, “Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads,” The New York Times, September 6, 2017.

22. Tom Porter, “Russia: Putin’s State TV Incited Racial Hatred after Fake Report of Girl’s Rape by Refugees,” International Business Times, January 20, 2016,

23. Edward Lucas and Peter Pomeranzev, “Winning the Information War: Techniques and Counter-Strategies to Russian Propaganda in Central and Eastern Europe,” Center for European Policy Analysis, August 2016.

24. For the notion of hybrid warfare, see NATO Stratcom, “Internet Trolling as a Tool of Hybrid Warfare.”

25. Joshua Eisenman and Eric Heginbotham, eds., China Steps Out: Beijing’s Major Power Engagement with the Developing World (New York: Routledge, 2018).