Sharp Power: China’s Solution to Maintaining the Legitimacy of its Non-Interference Policy


  • Senéad Short University of Iowa


China, Soft Power, Sharp Power, Non-Interference, Australia, Argentina, Foreign Policy, Power, International Relations, Politics


Since the time of Mao Zedong, Chinese officials have promoted a foreign policy of non-interference. In the past, to obtain power
internationally, Chinese officials coupled non-interference with soft power mechanisms. Soft power is influence through attraction. However, with the onset of the 21st century the stance of the international community concerning non-interference shifted as it has recognized the limits of non-interference and sacrificed it in favor of protecting and promoting human rights. China, however, has held firm to its policy of non-interference. However, neither has it been willing to accept diminished influence in the world. Therefore, China’s solution is sharp power, a term that describes the way in which authoritarian regimes, specifically China and Russia, perforate the media and political spheres of other nations to manipulate and influence public and governmental perceptions.

Firstly, in this paper I will analyze China’s policy of noninterference in foreign affairs. Next, I will detail how the change within the international community has threatened China’s influence in the world and thereby caused Chinese officials to develop new methods of influence. In the second part of this paper, I explain how China’s use of sharp power has been manifested in the political spheres of Australia and Argentina. I argue that China has developed sharp power methods of influence because it seeks to bolster its power in the world, while still maintaining its policy of non-interference. Since sharp power was only coined as a term in December 2017, very few authors have tackled the way in which the CCP uses sharp power. None have yet linked China’s foreign policy of non-interference to its current use of sharp power. To address this lacuna, this essay traces China’s foreign policy rhetoric and action in the international community to discover the contradictory and clandestine nature of its current foreign policy, which uses non-interference as a guide to carry out increasing methods of sharp power to shape and sway international political policies. 


Aidoo, Richard, and Steve Hess. “Non-Interference 2.0: China's Evolving Foreign Policy towards a Changing Africa.” Journal of Current Chinese

Affairs, Vol. 44, no. 1, 2015, pp. 107–139.

de la Beaumelle, Marcel Angliviel. “The United Front Work Department: “Magic Weapon” at Home and Abroad.” The Jamestown Foundation, July 2017.

Bisley, Nick. “Mistrust of Australia is growing in China.” The Interpreter, December 4, 2017.

Bothwell, Ellie. “Chinese power ‘may lead to global academic censorship crisis’” Times Higher Education. December 7, 2017.

Capotondo, Fernando. “Gustavo Girado: China negotiated and managed to keep part of the transnational technology.” Tiempoar, September 2017.

Cardenal, Juan Pablo. “Navigating Political Change in Argentina.” Ch. 2 in Sharp Power: Rising

Authoritarian Influence. Washington, DC: National Endowment for Democracy. 2017.

Carlson, Allen. Unifying China, integrating with the World: Securing Chinese Sovereignty in the Reform Era. Stanford University Press, 2005.

CIA. “The Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance Between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union.” Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency. February 1950.

Doyon, Jérôme. “A Hundred Think Tanks Bloom in China.” Berlin: European Council on Foreign Relations, August 2016.

Deryer, June Teufel. “A Weapon Without War: China’s United Front Strategy.” South Asia Journal, February 6, 2018.

Edney, Kingsley. The Globalization of Chinese Propaganda: International Power and Domestic Political Cohesion. Asia Today series. London:

Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Evans, Gareth and Mohamed Sahnoun. “Responsibility to Protect.” International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Ottawa:

International Development Research Center, 2001.

Freedom House. Freedom in the World 2018. New York and Washington, DC: Freedom House, 2018.

Global Times. “West Suspicion of China infiltration absurd.” Global Times, December 12, 2017.

Gonzalez-Vicente, Ruben. “The Limits to China’s NonInterference Foreign Policy: pro-State Interventionism and the Rescaling of Economic

Governance.” Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 69, no. 2 (2015): 205–223.


Hassan, Daud. "Rise of the Territorial State and the Treaty of Westphalia.” The Yearbook of New Zealand Jurisprudence, vol. 9 (2006): 62-70.

Hu Jintao. “Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive for New Victories in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All.” Report to the 17th Party Congress, 15 October 2007.

Kuo, Mercy. “China’s United Front Work: Propaganda as Policy.” The Diplomat, February 2018.

Kurlantzick, Joshua. “Australia, New Zealand Face China’s Influence.” New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2017.

Liascovich, Carlos. “Pymes, claves para exportar a China.” Clarín, January 2016.

Li Changyu. “Consultative Democracy China’s latest political buzzword.” China Global Times, March 2015.

Lo Jieh-Yung. “Just because I have a moderate view on China doesn't make me a Beijing stooge.” The Guardian, April 5, 2018.

Mao Zedong. “Opening address at the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.” September 21, 1949.

Beijing, China.

Marie-Brady, Anne. “Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping.” The Wilson Center. 2015.

McKenzie, Nick and Richard Baker. “China’s Operations in Australia: Payments, Power, and our Politicians.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 2017.

Misculin, Nicolás. “Argentina defends ties with China, Russia despite U.S. objection.” Reuters, February 8, 2018.

Murphy, Katharine. “Coalition to ban foreign donations to political parties and activist groups.” The Guardian, December 5, 2017.

Nye, Joseph. “How sharp power threatens soft power.”

Foreign Affairs, January 24, 2018.

Nye, Joseph. “China’s soft and sharp power.” Prague: Project Syndicate, January 4, 2018.

Nye, Joseph. “The Limits of Chinese Soft Power.” Prague: Project Syndicate, July 2015.

Nye, Joseph. “Soft Power and American Foreign Policy.”Political Science Quarterly. Volume 119, Number 2, 2004.

Nye, Joseph. Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

Peters, Enrique. “China’s Evolving Role in Latin America: Can it be a win-win?” Washington, DC: Atlantic Council Adrienne Arsht Latin America

Center, September 2015.

Qiao, Shitong, “Whither China’s Non-Interference Principle?” Tallinn, Estonia: European Society of

International Law, Fourth Research Forum, 2011.

Raymond, Nate. “N.Y. Foundation’s ex-chief gets 20 months in prison in U.N. brief case.” Reuters, July 29, 2016.

Ren, Mu. “An Analysis on the Contradiction Between China’s Non-intervention Policy and Intervention

Activities.” Ritsumeikan Annual Review of International Studies, vol. 13 (2014): 127-155.


Reuters. “Australia, U.S., India and Japan in talks to establish Belt and Road alternative: report.” Reuters, February 18, 2018.

Rossiter, James. “Chinese hackers target rolls-royce and shell.” The Press, December 2007.

Schelp, Andrés and Andrés Saravia. “The role of Chinese academics in the decision-making process.” Buenos Aires: Consejo Argentino para las

Relaciones Internacionales. May 2016.

Talukdar, Sreemoy. “Quadrilateral dialogue: As India, US, Japan, Australia converge after 10-year hiatus, crucial questions remain unanswered.” First Post, November 2017.

Teitt, Sarah. “The Responsibility to Protect and China's Peacekeeping Policy.” International Peacekeeping, vol. 18, no. 33 (2011): 298-312.

Tiffert, Glenn. “The Long Arm of China: Exporting Authoritarianism with Chinese Characteristics.” Washington, DC: Congressional-Executive

Commission on China. December 13, 2017.

To, James Jiann Hua. Qiaowu: Extra-Territorial Policies for the Overseas Chinese. Chinese Overseas series, vol. 8. Leiden: Brill (2014).

UNSC. “United Nations Security Council 8132nd meeting.” United Nations Security Council Report. December, 2017.

Vice, Margaret. “In global popularity contest, U.S. and China – not Russia – vie for first.” Washington,

DC: Pew Research Center, August 2017.

Walker, Christopher and Jessica Ludwig. “From ‘Soft Power’ to ‘Sharp Power’: Rising Authoritarian

Influence in the Democratic World.” Introduction to Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence.

Washington, DC: National Endowment for Democracy, 2017.

Wang, Jian. “Introduction” to China’s Search of Soft Power in Soft Power in China: Public Diplomacy through Communication, Jian Wang, editor. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011.

Wang, Yizhou. Creative Involvement: the Evolution of China’s Global Role. London: Routledge, 2017.

Wong, Kayla. “Australia voted as the least friendly country to China in 2017 by Chinese netizens.” Mothership, January 2018.

Wyeth, Grant. “Why Has Australia Shifted Back to the Quad?” The Diplomat, November 16, 2017.

Xi Jinping. “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” Speech at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Beijing, China. October 18, 2017.'s_report_at_19th_CPC_National_Congress


Yao Jianing. “Argentina expert: Reasonable for China not to accept South China Sea arbitration.” China Military News, June 2016.

Zhao Litao and Tiao Soon. “China's Cultural Rise: Visions and Challenges.” China: An International Journal (2007).




How to Cite

Short, S. (2022). Sharp Power: China’s Solution to Maintaining the Legitimacy of its Non-Interference Policy. Wittenberg University East Asian Studies Journal, 45, 71–106. Retrieved from