Government Agency

United Front Work Department (UFWD)

Headquarters:

135 Fuyou Street

Location:

Bejing, China

Formation:

1942

Type:

Foreign Government Organization

Director:

Shi Taifeng

United Front Work Department (UFWD) is a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee department that coordinates and carries out activities to influence and co-opt targets in support of the CCP’s policy objectives. [1]

UFWD has been called an “external intelligence organization” [2] of China and its officials often reportedly operate under diplomatic cover as members of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [3] Shi Taifeng, an ally of paramount leader of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping and member of the Chinese Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo is UFWD’s director. [4]

History and Leadership

The United Front Work Department was founded in 1942 during the Chinese Civil War. [5] Prior to the official development of the UFWD, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began launching “united front” work in 1922 to support its objectives in China. [6] In 1939, Mao Zedong called united front work one of the “three magic weapons” that would be crucial for the Communist Party to win the civil war and take control of China. [7] [8]

According to the Jamestown Foundation, the UFWD has risen in prominence under the regime of Xi Jinping; the Foundation has written that his regime “has been working to ensure that all relevant parts of the CCP bureaucracy carry out united front work.” [9] In 2018, UFWD was consolidated as part of CCP restructuring of party agencies to enhance Beijing’s grip on religious and ethnic affairs as well as political infiltration overseas. [10]

In October 2022, Xi Jinping ally and Politburo member Shi Taifeng was confirmed as UFWD director. [11] Shi is also the president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. [12] Chen Xu, the former secretary of the Party Committee of Tsinghua University, is the deputy minister of UFWD. [13]

Activities and Funding

United Front Work Department is the executive agency within the Chinese government that is responsible for coordinating Chinese Communist Party influence operations that co-opt and neutralize potential opposition to CCP policies and authority. [14]

According to Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation research fellow Peter Mattis, UFWD coordinates operations in support of the “Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation” with the intention of making China a “great power with global reach” and ensuring this happens with the CCP in power. [15]

In July 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the United Front is “an important magic weapon for the party to overcome the enemy, govern and rejuvenate the country, and it is an important magic weapon for uniting all Chinese sons and daughters at home and abroad to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” [16]

Committees within UFWD coordinate central, provincial, and local levels of government activities in each administrative region within China. UFWD also controls four of the most-important bureaucracies within China: Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conferences (CPPCCs), Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commissions (ERACs), Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Offices (FOCAOs), and Federations of Industry and Commerce (FICs). [17]

FOCAOs are also tasked with training cadres to carry out united front work overseas and promoting Chinese-regulated propaganda. FOCAOs also monitor and censor information the Chinese government considers to be foreign interference in China [18] and allegedly funds Confucius Institutes, which are Chinese-funded institutes that critics argue serve as a propaganda tool on U.S. and global university campuses. [19] [20] [21] UFWD also works to prevent any foreign religious groups or individuals from interfering in China’s religions. [22]

Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Joshua Kurlantzick has written that UFWD is an “external intelligence organization” [23] of China, and its officials often operate under diplomatic cover as members of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [24] UFWD amplifies official and unofficial Chinese organizations, serves as an access point for foreign technology transfer, monitors and reports on the Chinese diaspora, and works with Chinese diaspora through trade groups, student organizations, and friendship associations that are designed to shield the CCP from criticism. [25] [26]

Overseas, UFWD courts elites outside of the CCP to test their political loyalty and cultivates “patriotic forces” in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas to exert CCP influence. [27] UFWD operations often target universities and research institutions, overseas students, scientists, religious groups and ethnic minorities, organizations, think tanks, media figures, political leaders, and business leaders. [28] Former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai advocated “nestling intelligence within the United Front,” “using the United Front to push forth intelligence,” and “using the legal to mask the illegal; deftly integrating the legal and the illegal.” [29]

Funding

United Front Work Department receives its funding from the Chinese government and other Chinese Communist Party entities, but the Ministry of Finance does not publish annual budget documents for the UFWD. [30]

References

  1. [1] Joske, Alex. “The party speaks for you.” Australian Strategic Policy Institute. June 9, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.aspi.org.au/report/party-speaks-you. ^
  2. Kurlantzick, Joshua. “China’s Growing Attempts to Influence U.S. Politics.” Council on Foreign Relations. October 31, 2022. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.cfr.org/article/chinas-growing-attempts-influence-us-politics. ^
  3. Brady, Anne-Marie. “Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping.” Conference paper published by the Wilson Center. Accessed November 6, 2022. Pg. 4. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/article/magic_weapons.pdf. ^
  4. Yin, Cao. “High-ranking officials appointed to new positions.” China Daily. October 29, 2022. Accessed November 4, 2022. https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202210/29/WS635c6925a310fd2b29e7f309.html. ^
  5. Teddy Ng and Mimi Lau. “Fears about Chinese influence grow as more powers given to shadowy agency.” South China Morning Post. March 21, 2018. Accessed via Web Archive November 5, 2022. https://archive.ph/GJkDo. ^
  6. Joske, Alex. “The party speaks for you.” Australian Strategic Policy Institute. June 9, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.aspi.org.au/report/party-speaks-you. ^
  7. Zheng, William. “Xi Jinping urges Chinese Communist Party to step up efforts to ‘win hearts and minds’ in Hong Kong and Taiwan.” South China Morning Post. July 31, 2022. Accessed via Web Archive November 5, 2022. https://archive.ph/BPxyH. ^
  8. Joske, Alex. “The party speaks for you.” Australian Strategic Policy Institute. June 9, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.aspi.org.au/report/party-speaks-you. ^
  9. [1] Joske, Alex. “Reorganizing the United Front Work Department: New Structures for a New Era of Diaspora and Religious Affairs Work.” The Jamestown Foundation. China Brief Volume; 19, Issue: 9. May 9, 2019. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://jamestown.org/program/reorganizing-the-united-front-work-department-new-structures-for-a-new-era-of-diaspora-and-religious-affairs-work/. ^
  10. Teddy Ng and Mimi Lau. “Fears about Chinese influence grow as more powers given to shadowy agency.” South China Morning Post. March 21, 2018. Accessed via Web Archive November 5, 2022. https://archive.ph/GJkDo. ^
  11. Yin, Cao. “High-ranking officials appointed to new positions.” China Daily. October 29, 2022. Accessed November 4, 2022. https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202210/29/WS635c6925a310fd2b29e7f309.html. ^
  12. Li, Salina. “Xi Jinping ally Shi Taifeng to head Chinese Communist Party’s influence machine.” South China Morning Post. October 28, 2022. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3197609/xi-jinping-ally-helm-communist-partys-influence-machine. ^
  13. Huairang, Yue. “Chen Yu, former secretary of the Party Committee of Tsinghua University, was appointed as the Deputy Minister of the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee.” ThePaper.cn. February 28, 2022. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_16886297. ^
  14. Bowe, Alexander. “China’s Overseas United Front Work.” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.  Pg. 3. August 24, 2018. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/China%27s%20Overseas%20United%20Front%20Work%20-%20Background%20and%20Implications%20for%20US_final_0.pdf. ^
  15. Mattis, Peter. “”China’s Growing Influence in Asia and the United States.” Testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation. May 8, 2019. Accessed November 5, 2022. Pg. 4. https://www.congress.gov/116/meeting/house/109458/witnesses/HHRG-116-FA05-Wstate-MattisP-20190508.pdf ^
  16. Zheng, William. “Xi Jinping urges Chinese Communist Party to step up efforts to ‘win hearts and minds’ in Hong Kong and Taiwan.” South China Morning Post. July 31, 2022. Accessed via Web Archive November 5, 2022. https://archive.ph/BPxyH. ^
  17. Fedasiuk, Ryan. “Putting Money in the Party’s Mouth; How China Mobilizes Funding for United Front Work.” The Jamestown Foundation. September 16, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://jamestown.org/program/putting-money-in-the-partys-mouth-how-china-mobilizes-funding-for-united-front-work/. ^
  18. Fedasiuk, Ryan. “Putting Money in the Party’s Mouth; How China Mobilizes Funding for United Front Work.” The Jamestown Foundation. September 16, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://jamestown.org/program/putting-money-in-the-partys-mouth-how-china-mobilizes-funding-for-united-front-work/. ^
  19. Bowe, Alexander. “China’s Overseas United Front Work.” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.  Pg. 3. August 24, 2018. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/China%27s%20Overseas%20United%20Front%20Work%20-%20Background%20and%20Implications%20for%20US_final_0.pdf. ^
  20. Yang, Lin. “Controversial Confucius Institutes Returning to U.S. Schools Under New Name.” Voice of America. June 27, 2022. Accessed November 6, 2022. https://www.voanews.com/a/controversial-confucius-institutes-returning-to-u-s-schools-under-new-name/6635906.html. ^
  21. “Grassley To Schools: Confucius Institutes Are Fronts For Chinese Propaganda; Just Ask FBI.” Office of Senator Chuck Grassley. March 11, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2022. https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-schools-confucius-institutes-are-fronts-chinese-propaganda-just-ask-fbi/. ^
  22. James Kynge, Lucy Hornby, and Jamil Anderlini. “Inside China’s secret ‘magic weapon’ for worldwide influence.” Financial Times. October26, 2017. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.ft.com/content/fb2b3934-b004-11e7-beba-5521c713abf4. ^
  23. [1] Kurlantzick, Joshua. “China’s Growing Attempts to Influence U.S. Politics.” Council on Foreign Relations. October 31, 2022. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.cfr.org/article/chinas-growing-attempts-influence-us-politics. ^
  24. Brady, Anne-Marie. “Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping.” Conference paper published by the Wilson Center. Accessed November 6, 2022. Pg. 4. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/article/magic_weapons.pdf. ^
  25. Fedasiuk, Ryan. “Putting Money in the Party’s Mouth; How China Mobilizes Funding for United Front Work.” The Jamestown Foundation. September 16, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://jamestown.org/program/putting-money-in-the-partys-mouth-how-china-mobilizes-funding-for-united-front-work/. ^
  26. Fedasiuk, Ryan. “How China’s united front system works overseas.” April 13, 2022. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/how-chinas-united-front-system-works-overseas/. ^
  27. Zheng, William. “Xi Jinping urges Chinese Communist Party to step up efforts to ‘win hearts and minds’ in Hong Kong and Taiwan.” South China Morning Post. July 31, 2022. Accessed via Web Archive November 5, 2022. https://archive.ph/BPxyH. ^
  28. [1] Joske, Alex. “The party speaks for you.” Australian Strategic Policy Institute. June 9, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.aspi.org.au/report/party-speaks-you. ^
  29. Joske, Alex. “The party speaks for you.” Australian Strategic Policy Institute. June 9, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.aspi.org.au/report/party-speaks-you. ^
  30. Fedasuik, Ryan. “Putting Money in the Party’s Mouth: How China Mobilizes Funding for United Front Work.” Jamestown Foundation. China Brief Volume: 20 Issue: 16. September 16, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2022. https://jamestown.org/program/putting-money-in-the-partys-mouth-how-china-mobilizes-funding-for-united-front-work/. ^
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