The April 2018 issue of the Journal of Democracy presents a set of eight articles on “China in Xi’s New Era,” examining the country’s internal changes in the wake of the 19th Party Congress, its expanding global ambitions, and its influence operations from Australia to the Czech Republic. Susan L. Shirk examines how Xi Jinping has dismantled the mechanisms put in place after Mao Zedong’s death to prevent the “overconcentration of power’; Minxin Pei assesses China’s newly assertive foreign policy; Shanthi Kalathil describes how China’s growth-without-liberalization agenda is changing the conversation on development; Orville Schell surveys the neglected treasury of Chinese democratic thought; and China’s overseas influence efforts come under the spotlight in articles by John Fitzgerald on Australia, Anne-Marie Brady on New Zealand, Donald K. Emmerson on Singapore, and Martin Hala on Central and Eastern Europe.
“If the institutions driving the development conversation ignore or even undermine liberal-democratic values and concerns, the global durability of democratic governance can suffer, corruption can flourish, and authoritarianism can find fertile ground.” –Shanthi Kalathil
Dean Jackson assesses the tactics used by political actors to shape the information environment and explores the proliferation of digital disinformation in the contemporary information space. The brief highlights how disinformation is consumed, proactive and reactive disinformation strategies in different country contexts, and the scale of the disinformation crisis.
On May 30, Bulgarian human rights defender and current Reagan-Fascell Fellow Dimitrina Petrova offered an alternative explanation of the celebrated but misconceived idea of “transitions to democracy,” as well as some reflections on the current political landscape in Central and Eastern Europe, paying specific focus to the transformative potential of civic activism in the region.
On April 24 and 25, Christopher Walker traveled to Seoul, South Korea to attend the Asan Plenum, an annual conference hosted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. This year’s theme focused on “Illiberal International Order.” Walker spoke on a panel on “Sharp Power,” its implications for democracy, and how the West can combat its influence.
A populist and illiberal tide is gaining strength across the globe, posing a serious threat to liberal democracy. On April 3, prominent political scientists William Galston and Yascha Mounk celebrated the launch of their new books while discussing the factors fueling populism’s rise and how democracies can effectively respond.
On April 5, Christopher Walker testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on “sharp power” and the Chinese government’s influence efforts in Europe and the Asia Pacific. He argues that ‘”soft power” when speaking in the context of authoritarian regimes might be more properly labeled “sharp power,” whose key attributes are outward-facing censorship and manipulation, rather than persuasion and attraction.”
Melissa Aten of the International Forum for Democratic Studies spoke with Lilia Shevtsova about transnational kleptocracy and the implications of Russia’s domestic and international policies. Dr. Shevtsova also held an event on April 17 where she examined the paradoxes of Russian-Western relations, the sustainability of the Russian system, and the implications of its struggle for survival.