by Xinhua writer Liu Si
BEIJING, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Recently, a term "sharp power" has become "popular" following a U.S. think tank report and a cover story of the British magazine Economist in December 2017, both of which raised so-called "concerns" over the growing influence of Russia and China.
In January, Joseph Nye, the father of "soft power" from Harvard University, published two articles respectively on U.S. magazine Foreign Affairs and international media organization Project Syndicate, attributing "soft power" to the West and labeling China and Russia with "sharp power".
Nye defined "soft power" as the ability to affect others by attraction and persuasion, but linked "sharp power" to information of warfare, particularly waged by China and Russia.
However, if one looks into the term "sharp power" and learns its ins and outs, one may find that the term is no more than a language trap, coined and manipulated by some Western countries with "zero-sum" mentality and cultural hegemony.
A new report "Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence", released on Dec. 5, 2017 and powered by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED), claimed that China and Russia have spent a lot to shape public opinion and perceptions around the world.
What made such a months-old term evolve and spread that fast? There are political factors behind it.
The term "sharp power" first appeared in a Foreign Affairs article in November 2017, co-written by Christopher Walker, NED vice president for Studies and Analysis, and research and conferences officer Jessica Ludwig, discussing Russia and China's "overseas influence activities prompt a revisiting of 'soft power'".
They coined the term as "a new vocabulary for the phenomenon", which was quickly leveraged by some Western politicians as a good tool to shape the public opinion towards Russia and China. The NED has played a key role in fueling the flame.
The NED, a Washington-based private, nonprofit foundation and think tank, was founded in 1983, a year after former U.S. President Ronald Reagan proposed an initiative while delivering a speech to the British Parliament "to foster the infrastructure of democracy".
Thanks to strong Congressional support, it's no wonder that the NED each year makes more than 1,700 grants to support the projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for "democratic goals" in more than 90 countries.
Calling the NED a "Trojan horse", William Blum, an historian and U.S. foreign policy critic, said that the organization was actually not a NGO (Non-governmental organization) but "a GO".
The foundation "meddles in the internal affairs of numerous foreign countries" in multiple ways, including "supply funds, technical know-how, training, educational materials, computers and so on, to selected political groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, other media, etc", said Blum.
U.S. Libertarian congressman Ron Paul argued several times against funding the NED by the U.S. government, saying the NED "has very little to do with democracy."
"It is an organization that uses U.S. tax money to actually subvert democracy, by showering funding on favored political parties or movements overseas," said Paul.