Thursday, December 24, 2020

New Report: Think Tanks as Platforms for Authoritarian Influence

Nadege Rolland, a Senior Fellow for Political and Security Affairs at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) and a Nonresident Fellow at the Lowy Institute, has published a new report entitled "Commanding Ideas: Think Tanks as Platforms for Authoritarian Influence."

Here is a summary:

The report describes the ways in which authoritarian countries seek to use think tanks as instruments of sharp power, focusing specifically on why and how authoritarian powers target foreign private organizations dedicated to policy-related research. Authoritarian think tanks operate much like their democratic counterparts—organizing public conferences and events, publishing research in academic journals and on their websites, and sharing analyses with media outlets. But the antiliberal and antidemocratic political systems to which these entities belong repress any form of dissent and claim control over the discursive and ideational space. The overall effect lends regime-backed narratives an artificial legitimacy. Democratic think tanks and other civil society stakeholders have a critical role to play in strengthening democratic resilience and countering authoritarian attempts to undermine intellectual freedom.


The report was published as part of the International Forum for Democratic Studies' "Sharp Power and Democratic Resilience" series.  That Forum is housed within the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).  The report notes that the Smith Richardson Foundation provides financial support for the series.

Prior to joining NBR, Rolland was an analyst and senior adviser on Asian and Chinese strategic issues to the French Ministry of Defense.  She is the author of the book China's Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative.