Sharp Power the New Technology of Influence in a Global World

Sharp Power the New Technology of Influence in a Global World
// . 2019. Vol. 63, No 2. P. 21-28

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-2-21-28

O. Leonova (,
Lomonosov Moscow State University, build. 13/14, 1, Leninskie gory, Moscow 119992, Russian Federation


The “sharp power” is a new phenomenon of gaining influence in international politics in the era when information has become a weapon, a combination of information influence operations and methods of cyber-terrorism. J. Nye regards the “sharp power” as usage of falsified information for hostile purposes. It encompasses manipulation of information, formation of falsified content of the information flow, conduct of information operations and implementation of information projects. By diverting the audience’s attention and using manipulation technologies the “sharp power” promotes certain values, ideas and phobias to the outside world. Its purpose is interference in domestic political processes of the targeted country, violation of its stability and threatening its national security by influencing public consciousness and behavior of people. The subjects of the “sharp power” do not seek to “win hearts and minds” as those of the “soft power” do, but try to penetrate into and subjugate the political and media spheres of other countries by conducting information operations. The “sharp power” technologies include hacking into personal e-mail and theft of electronic correspondence, falsification of information flow, introduction of malicious software, defacing of websites, destruction of network services and the main computer networks. They are mainly associated with misinformation, fake news and manipulation of information; use the advantages of information openness of cyberspace and are virtually invulnerable – it is difficult to detect them and to identify the mechanism of their action. The “sharp power” has the following quality characteristics: high speed of transactions, their low cost, timing, clear strategy and tactics, flexibility, agility and efficiency. The efficiency factors of the “sharp power” are the openness of cyberspace, camouflage of their purposes, state control and state support of information operations. In conditions when any country can become a victim of the “sharp power”, and its technology represents a threat to the security of the world community, only common efforts of all interested parties and their joint action can tackle the problem and confront cyber threats. The article also reveals the western audience’s perception of the features of “sharp power” in China, Russia and Iran. In conclusion, the author formulates the possible measures and problem solutions. 


soft power, smart power, intelligent power, sharp power, influence technologies, information operations, cyberspace, China, Russia, Iran


1. Walker Ch., Ludwig J. The Meaning of Sharp Power. How Authoritarian States Project Influence. Foreign Affairs, 2017, November 16. Available at: (accessed 02.12.2017).

2. Nye J.S., Jr. Soft Power. The Means to Success in World Politics. New York, Public Affairs, 2004. 192 p.

3. Nye J.S., Jr. The Future of Power. New York, Public Affairs, 2011. 320 p.

4. Stoletov O.V. Strategiya “razumnoi sily” v politike global’nogo liderstva. Diss. kand. polit. nauk. [The Strategy of “Reasonable Power” in the Policy of Global Leadership. Cand. Diss. (Polit.)]. Moscow, 2014. 152 p.

5. Kurlantzick J. Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power Is Transforming the World. Yale University Press, 2007. 306 p.

6. Nye J.S. Jr. How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power. The Right and Wrong Ways to Respond to Authoritarian Influence. Foreign Affairs, 2018, January 24, Available at: (accessed 29.01.2018).

7. Serena C.C., Clarke C.P. America’s Cyber Security Dilemma – and a Way Out (2016). Available at: (accessed 12.01.2018).

8. Libicki M. C. Checklist for a U.S. – Russia Cyberwar (2016). Available at: (accessed 14.01.2018).

9. McClintock B. Russian Information Warfare: A Reality That Needs a Response (2017). Available at: blog/2017/07/russian-information-warfare-a-reality-that-needs-a.html (accessed 16.01.2018).

10. Wiener M., Wiener C. Cybersecurity Threats: How Vulnerable Is the United States? Annual Lecture on Science and Technology (2017). Available at: (accessed 29.12.2017).

11. Kania E. B. Artificial Intelligence and Chinese Power. Beijing’s Push for a Smart Military and How to Respond. Foreign Affairs, 2017, December 5. Available at: (accessed 20.02.2018).

12. Fominykh A. Nastuplenie s ulybkoi: kak “myagkoe vliyanie” Kitaya preobrazhaet mir [Coming with a Smile: How China’s “Soft Influence” Transforms the World]. Problemy Dal’nego Vostoka, 2009, no. 3, pp. 175-178.

13. Report Watch Vol. VI: Tracking Digital and Cyber Scholarship So You Don’t Have To (2018). Available at: (accessed 25.05.2018).

14. Deibert R. Social Media, Inc.: The Global Politics of Big Data. World Politics Review, 19.06.2012. Available at: (accessed 21.06.2018).

15. Countering Russian Information Operations in the Age of Social Media (2017). Available at: (accessed 26.12.2017).

16.Parasiliti A. Were Russian Hacks Really a Threat to American Democracy? (2016). Available at: (accessed 20.02.18).

17.Courtney W., Libicki M. C. How to Counter Putin’s Subversive War on the West (2016). Available at: (accessed 12.01.2018).

18.Knake R. K. Iran: Keep Your Finger Off the Cyber Button. Available at: (accessed 19.05.2018).

19.Davis II J.S., Boudreaux B.A., Welburn J.W., Aguirre J., Ogletree C., McGovern G., Chase M.S., eds. Stateless Attribution. Toward International Accountability in Cyberspace. Santa Monica, Calif. Published by the RAND Corporation, 2017. 57 p.

20. The Hacked Elections, Online Influence Operations, and the Threat to Democracy symposium. December 6, (2017). (The transcript of the Symposium). Available at: (accessed 25.12.2017).


Registered in system SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Leonova O. Sharp Power the New Technology of Influence in a Global World. , 2019, vol. 63, No 2, pp. 21-28.

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment


Current Issue
2020, No. I (LVI)
View This Issue (2020, No. I (LVI))
In Journal
                     Articles by year
                     Authors by year
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 |