I came across a very interesting article entitled How China’s “sharp power” is muting criticism abroad (link below) about China’s increased influence/meddling in western democracies mainly to promote a positive image of the country, and distorting information to suppress dissent and debate. It’s safe to say that this behaviour is neither new nor is it limited to China though the greater the influence the greater the impact – and we all know current economic power of China. Anyway I would highly recommend reading the article in its entirety. For me the key take – focusing entirely on our approach in dealing with this threat – is that western democracies face a stack of new challenges/vulnerabilities both from within and external ones that feed off the internal ones. Here are some suggested pointers we need to look at;

  1. Rediscovering our Moral Compass; I feel we have taken capitalism to the extreme where we’ve more geared towards consumption/materialism rather than a values, morals which should be the foundation for any society. This is NOT being philosophical or Idealist, this is indeed being pragmatic because developing a strategy to reverse this trend is key to protecting our nation from foreign influence while ensuring we evolve as a society in manner consistent with this belief/value base.
  2. Strengthening/Ring fencing Key Public Institution/Policies: This is exactly the reverse of what’s happening in the United States under the Trump administration where the trend is to gain political influence in key institutions like environmental agency as well as security arm of the US; the CIA, FBI and the Pentagon. We need strong government institutions that are driven/guided by strong sense of ethos/values gained through years of experience and with a high level of independence in performing their duties away from the politics of the day. In addition key policy decisions with long term ramifications deep/wide cannot be allowed to be undone with a stroke of a pen – this is a big flaw in the system that needs to be remedied ASAP.
  3. Eliminating Influence of Money & Special Interest Groups/Lobbyist from Politics; I have written plenty on this topic in many posts so will not rehash here.
  4. Developing/Applying Extreme Vetting: Ensuring proper vetting of civil servants & politicians taking up key positions both in terms of expertise as well as allegiances. It is absolutely absurd to allow government departments to be driven by career politicians rather than by experts selected from these exact departments. This model of political assignments has to change.
  5. Developing a New Model for Politics in Line with Past Lessons & Future Challenges; Fixing our broken political ecosystem and developing one where constant re-evaluation is baked into the new model of politics; a model where more Independents are elected to parliament so we move away from clan politics; where new parties are created and driven by vision rather than ideology or generic/meaningless themes (Labour – Conservative – Liberal) – we’re more complex to fit it any 1 of these boxes; where party coalitions & voting that cuts across party lines becomes the norm rather than the exception. The organic evolution of governance models may have worked in the 19th century but now we need more of a deliberate approach towards evolution to cope with changing times and the speed of change.

At some point we truly need to STOP looking at policy and START assessing the broader picture of the way we do politics in this country because there is a direct correlation between that and the vulnerabilities we face as in this day and age. There are some ideas I also have on the subject on how we can get there while cutting corners in the process which I hope to be able to share in the right forum when/where appropriate. More importantly let’s begin by having the right conversation before we reach conclusions that may NOT even be relevant to what we need at this stage.

Related Article/Post

How China’s “sharp power” is muting criticism abroad

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