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How Democracies Can Fight Authoritarian Sharp Power

New Laws Aren't Enough

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China, September 2017. REUTERS

All around the world, authoritarian governments are interfering with the institutions of democratic societies in ways that would have been unthinkable even during the Cold War. Universities, news organizations, think tanks, film studios, museums, publishing houses, and every aspect of the political process are being targeted by outside influence. This kind of sharp power is so effective because institutions in democratic settings are open to the outside world and thus vulnerable to foreign manipulation. Policymakers within democracies need to grapple with the challenge of repelling outside influence while upholding essential democratic values.

AUSTRALIA’S NEW LAWS

Australia offers a good case study. On June 28, the Australian parliament voted to adopt two new bills to contend with the threat of foreign political interference, which the bills defined as efforts that are covert, corrupting, or coercive. Although recent attention to meddling by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) motivated the legislation, the new laws do not single

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