United Front Work Department
The United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (UFWD; Chinese: 中共中央统一战线工作部) is an agency of the Communist Party of China that manages relations with various important and influential elite individuals and organizations inside and outside China. These are people or entities that are outside the Party proper, who hold social, commercial, or academic influence, or who represent interest groups. Through its efforts, the UFWD seeks to ensure that these groups are supportive of and useful to Communist Party rule. It reports directly to the Party's Central Committee.
|Type||Department directly reporting to the Central Committee|
|Headquarters||135 Fuyou Street, Xicheng District, Beijing|
Executive deputy head
|Bagatur*, Xu Lejiang*, Shi Dagang, Ran Wanxiang, Dai Junliang|
|Central Committee of the Communist Party of China|
Civil war and gaining powerEdit
United front policies were most used in two periods before the Chinese Communist Revolution, namely from 1924 to 1927, and from 1936 to 1945, when the CCP cooperated with the Nationalist Party ostensibly to defeat the Japanese. The simplest formulation of UF work in the period was to "rally as many allies as possible in order to... defeat a common enemy."
In the early years the CCP also used United Front policies to cooperate with "disaffected warlords, religious believers, ethnic minorities, Overseas Chinese, and "minor parties and groups," that is front groups for the Communist Party to appear democratic. The Party's united front strategies were effective against the Nationalists, when combined with military force, "ideological work," and alliance building, which eventually isolated the enemy.
The Party communist agitators were able to persuade "minor parties and groups" in China that the Nationalists were "illegitimate and repressive while the CCP embodied progress, unity, and democracy."
After seizing power the communists continued to deploy united front strategies to train new communist intellectuals, "and, using thought reform based on criticism, began the transformation of the old society intellectuals." This involved violent elimination of what were termed "bourgeois and idealistic political beliefs," to install faith in "class struggle and revolutionary change." The CCP required the intellectuals to have "faith in class struggle and revolutionary change."
In the late 1970s the policy was used for the common cause of economic reform. From there the Party expanded the scope of its work internationally during the reform era, and again following the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The department includes a bureau tasked with handling Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and overseas affairs, and articulates the importance of using overseas Chinese populations to promote reunification. It played an important role in building support for "One country, two systems" in Hong Kong during the 1980s and 1990s, operating under the name of the "Coordination Department." The UFWD has been critically described as serving to co-opt non-Communist community leaders outside China, and "using them to neutralize Party critics," sometimes coercively.
Scholar of Chinese political history John P. Burns presents in his book The Chinese Communist Party's Nomenklatura System excerpts from internal party documents demonstrating the role of the UFWD. The UFWD is to "implement better the party's united front policy and to assess and understand patriotic personages in different fields... so that we can arrange for correct placements for them and fully mobilize and bring into play their positive role in the Four Modernizations and to accomplish the return of Taiwan to the motherland so as to fulfill the cause of uniting the whole country, and to carry forward and solidify the revolutionary, patriotic united front."
The United Front Department was used in the early years of communist rule "to guarantee CCP oversight" over groups that were not directly associated with the Party and government. Those groups, including NGOs, were brought under the authority of the UFWD, whose job it was to “continuing to play its part in mobilizing and rallying the whole people in common struggle” after the Liberation in 1949. When the CCP "shifted its focus from the “mass line” to “class struggle,” the real united front disappeared. While the United Front Department still existed, its duties of uniting with all forces for the “common struggle” shifted mainly to serving the Party’s leadership and “consolidating the proletarian dictatorship,"" according to Brookings Institution Visiting Fellow Zhang Ye.
Operations and affiliationsEdit
The United Front Work Department of the Party Central Committee and the State Council is the most direct link between the Communist Party leadership and minority groups in China. Scholar Martin Thorley described the UFWD as being able to call upon a "latent network" of civic, educational, and non-governmental groups and affiliated individuals for its political purposes, especially in times of crisis. For instance, the UFWD uses the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to carry out certain united front activities, often covertly.
The United Front consists of eight minor political parties and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce. It historically maintained a close relationship with the State Administration for Religious Affairs, which oversees the five officially sanctioned religions, and plays an active role in managing ethnic and religious minorities, particularly in Tibet.
In 2018, the United Front Work Department absorbed the State Administration for Religious Affairs and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office to become two internal bureaus. With the absorption of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, the UFWD gained full control of the country's second largest state-run media apparatus, the China News Service. The UFWD also oversees the actions of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission. Consequently, the UFWD became China's main agency overseeing ethnic, religious and overseas Chinese affairs.
Some national intelligence agencies have expressed concern that the mandate and operations of the UFWD can constitute undue interference in other nations' internal affairs. In their book Nest of Spies: the startling truth about foreign agents at work within Canada’s borders, de Pierrebourg and Juneau-Katsuya allege that the United Front Work Department “manages important dossiers concerning foreign countries. These include propaganda, the control of Chinese students abroad, the recruiting of agents among the Chinese diaspora (and among sympathetic foreigners), and long-term clandestine operations.” In 2007, the Communist Party increased the United Front Work Department’s budget by $3 million to further bolster China’s “soft power” abroad. The UFWD is reported to have over 40,000 personnel.
An Atlantic writer stated China runs thousands of linked and subsidized pro-government groups across Europe, to "ensure that its overseas citizens, and others of ethnic Chinese descent, are loyal", to "shape the conversation about China in Europe", and to "bring back technology and expertise", and that the UFWD plays a "crucial" role in this project.
In March 2018, it was announced that the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office would be absorbed into the United Front Work Department. A 2018 report by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted that the UFWD regularly attempts to suppress overseas protests and acts of expression critical of the Communist Party of China in what legal analysts consider conspiracy against rights.
List of heads of the departmentEdit
- Wang Ming (1942 - 1947)
- Zhou Enlai (1947 - 1948)
- Li Weihan (October 1948 - December 1964)
- Xu Bing (徐冰) (December 1964 - 1966)
- Interregnum (1966 - 1975)
- Li Dazhang (November 1975 - May 1976)
- Ulanhu (May 1976 - April 1982)
- Yang Jingren (April 1982 - November 1985)
- Yan Mingfu (November 1985 - November 1990)
- Ding Guangen (November 1990 - December 1992)
- Wang Zhaoguo (December 1992 - December 2002)
- Liu Yandong (December 2002 - December 2007)
- Du Qinglin (December 2007 - September 2012)
- Ling Jihua (September 2012 - December 2014)
- Sun Chunlan (December 2014 - November 2017)
- You Quan (November 2017 - incumbent)
- United Front (China)
- List of political parties in the People's Republic of China
Related PRC government agencies
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