Senior Project Advisor

Biswas, Bidisha

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2020


Sharp power, hard power, soft power, democracy, global balance of power, election interference


The term sharp power was coined in 2017 in order to describe what appeared to be a new form of covert influence by Russia, China, and other authoritarian states into the political systems of democracies. The increasing effectiveness of sharp power, due to advances in technology and the growing power of China and Russia, emphasizes a change to a more multipolar global balance of power. While the term sharp power ultimately does not describe new tactics, indeed information warfare already serves this purpose, it can help illuminate what global leadership will look like from authoritarian states in the near future. Constructivism is a useful lens to grasp how authoritarian states are using sharp power to change the narrative about what a good form of governance is. This thesis uses a case study research method, which examines Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections and Chinese influence in Australia’s politics. Russia spreads disinformation in order to sow disunity in its rivals and further its foreign policy goals. China uses propaganda in order to paint a better narrative about its place in the international system. To further research in this area future projects should answer whether sharp power deserves its own category of power, why democracies are so vulnerable to it now than in the past, and what policies can be implemented to combat its influence.


Political Science

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Internet and international relations--Russia (Federation); Cyberspace--Political aspects--Russia (Federation); Power (Social sciences)--Russia (Federation); Information warfare--Russia (Federation); Truthfulness and falsehood--Political aspects--Russia (Federation); Internet and international relations--China; Cyberspace--Political aspects--China; Power (Social sciences)--China; Information warfare--China; Truthfulness and falsehood--Political aspects--China

Geographic Coverage

Russia (Federation); China


student projects; term papers




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