The Art of Deceit: How China and Russia Use Sharp Power to Subvert the West

By Drs Andrew Foxall and John Hemmings

The Government’s proposed new espionage laws, including so-called FARA powers, contained within the Queen’s Speech are a necessary response to the rise of political warfare, according to the co-Editor of a new report published today on the phenomenon of sharp power.

Sharp power, which is also known as political warfare,is a threat so ascendant that in an essay within the report Andrew Hastie MP, chairman of the Parliamentary Joint committee on Intelligence and Security in the Australian Parliament, argues that the world has entered a “new era of great power competition between authoritarian and democratic states”.

The warnings appear in a report from the Henry Jackson Society, The Art of Deceit: How China and Russia Use Sharp Power to Subvert the West.

According to the report, as China and Russia have been ascendent, over the last decade, ruling elites in Beijing and Moscow have exported their norms and behaviour into the rules-based international system. This activity, its authors argue, threatens three pillars of Western democracies; a pluralistic politics, free media, and academia.

It is now the case, the report argues, that Russia and China are actively seeking to undermine Western core values, subvert its cohesion, and erode the resilience of liberal democratic societies. These operations stem from traditional “influence operations”, defined as attempts to pierce or penetrate the political and information environments of targeted countries.

The behaviour of China and Russia poses a long-term threat to the West.   Examples of the manifestations of this threat include: Chinese party-controlled media agencies co-opting European national news outlets, and the Russian “tripod” of disinformation and cyber, financial, and human warfare.

Last night, the report’s co-Editor issued an urgent warning, saying that the UK, in particular, must wake up to this threat and adopt further recommendations within the report, including:

  • Develop expertise in hybrid and political warfare, including offensive capabilities, to counter authoritarian subversion.
  • Protect key industries, infrastructure, and academic institutions from economic coercion.
  • Mobilise a coordinated Western response to share expertise and resources.

Read the report here.

In the words of the co-Editor:

“For much of the last decade, China and Russia have been waging political warfare against the West – and we simply didn’t notice. This report documents what Beijing and Moscow have been up to in the spheres of academia, media, and politics, and explains why their meddling and mischief-making poses such a threat to the West.

The Government’s proposed espionage laws are an excellent start but a threat as grave as this will require concerted efforts over and above new legislation.”

For far too long, we have turned a blind-eye to what hostile states have been doing, preferring to think that political warfare operations ended with the Cold War. Nothing could be further from the truth, and such complacency risks our national security.”


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