United Front Work Department
The United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the CCP Central Committee is the core organization used to advance the Chinese Communist Party's interests with the goal of co-opting organizations that might threaten it. Foreign targets can include the overseas Chinese communities, government officials, education institutions and any persons deemed influential.
The CCP's United Front system mobilizes the party's “friends” to strike the party's enemies. The system was greatly energized and expanded by Xi Jinping. It operates inside foreign political parties, diaspora communities, colleges and corporations, all with the goal of promoting the party's interests. The express goals of the United Front system include undermining social cohesion, exacerbating racial tension, and using of psychological warfare (psyops), media warfare (propaganda and fake news), and legal warfare (lawfare).
The CCP uses propaganda and influence operations as a means of projecting its power and weakening its enemies. Chief amongst the targets for these kinds of operations is the United States. These operations are coordinated and directed by the UFWD. The term "elite capture" refers to the targeting of individuals from politics and business to think tanks, the media and academia. Elite capture has a range of characteristics from 'useful idiots' to full-time agents of the CCP.
According to Director Christopher Wray, "the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours. Of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, almost half are related to China. And at this very moment, China is working to compromise American health care organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions conducting essential COVID-19 research." According to Guo Wengui ,Beijing's spy networks in the United States include up to 25,000 Chinese intelligence officers and more than 15,000 recruited agents who have stepped up offensive spying activities since 2012.
- 1 Controlling the narrative
- 2 Overseas diaspora and dissident groups
- 3 Other organizations
- 3.1 Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification
- 3.2 China Association for International Friendly Contact
- 3.3 Chinese Peoples’ Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries
- 3.4 Chinese Students and Scholars Associations
- 3.5 Confucius Institutes
- 3.6 China-United States Exchange Foundation
- 3.7 School of Transnational Law
- 3.8 Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences
- 3.9 Thousand Talents program
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Controlling the narrative
To advance the CCP narrative that the world is biased against China, the CCP has stepped up its United Front work to stifle criticism of the CCP, spread positive views of the CCP, and incentivize voters in foreign democracies to influence their domestic policies in ways favorable to PRC. The CCP has also cracked down on what it terms “historical nihilism,” or attempts to undermine Beijing’s official history.
During anti-CCP protests in San Francisco surrounding the 2008 Olympic torch relay, former U.S. intelligence officials said Chinese security officials monitored and directed counterprotesting blocs of thousands of Chinese students to drown out Beijing’s critics, which Politico called an “operation … by a hostile foreign intelligence service to forcibly suppress First Amendment activities in a major American city.” U.S. law defines “conspiracy against rights” as conspiring to “injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person … in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same” or going “in disguise … or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured.” The UFWD efforts at suppressing protests on U.S. soil to promote its narrative is as much a problem of civil rights as it is a problem of national security.
The Facebook Oversight Board upheld the platform’s decision to ban President Donald Trump – a strong source of opposition to the Chinese Communist Party. One of the board’s four co-chairs, former Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt, headlined an event hosted by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), which is led by Deng Rong, the daughter of a former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Rong is regarded as the “public face” of the United Front. UFWD functions as “avowedly an arm of the party-state.” The U.S. State Department has described UFWD as seeking to “directly and malignly influence” U.S. state and local leaders.
Overseas diaspora and dissident groups
The UFWD teaching manual directs operatives to win overseas Chinese over to the CCP’s side by emphasizing “flesh and blood” ties to China with the goal of securing political, moral, and financial support for the CCP. To achieve these ends, UFWD officials often meet with local chapters of “Hometown Associations” (groups that connect Chinese emigrants from the same locale), sometimes along with senior staff from Chinese consulates. In March 2018, the UFWD absorbed a number of State Council offices, including its Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, further consolidating its responsibility for activities that seek to sway the overseas Chinese communities.
Chinese intelligence services have specifically targeted ethnic minorities such as Uyghurs living overseas, threatening to send their families still in Xinjiang to internment camps, or keep them there, if the former do not agree to spy for China. According to Uyghurs who have been threatened in this way, this coercion is intended “not only to gather details about Uyghurs’ activities abroad, but also to sow discord within exile communities in the West and intimidate people in hopes of preventing them from speaking out against the Chinese state.”
In addition to the UFWD, a range of CCP military and civilian organizations are active in carrying out United Front work, either working directly for the UFWD or under the broader leadership of the CPPCC. The broad swath of actors involved in this work underlines that while certain organizations like the UFWD and CPPCC are explicitly involved in implementing United Front work, the strategy is a priority for the “whole Party.”
Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification
The China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification (CPPRC)—a prominent organization promoting China’s take over of Taiwan—is directly subordinate to the UFWD and has at least 200 chapters in 90 countries, including 33 chapters in the United States registered as the National Association for China’s Peaceful Unification. The CPPRC has become one of the most prominent groups claiming to represent the Chinese diaspora communities and is a leading organization mobilizing international Chinese communities in support of Beijing’s policies.
A separate entity, the Liaison Department of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Political Department (GPD), facilitated the activities of a number of front organizations—including “friendship” and “cultural” associations—as part of its broader mission to conduct propaganda operations, perform perception management, and gather intelligence.
China Association for International Friendly Contact
The China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC) is a United Front organization run by the Liaison Department of the Political Work Department of the Central Military Commission, active in intelligence collection. The department aims to dampen foreign army morale and break them up.
The National Endowment for Democracy argued in its December 2017 report, Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence, that targets of CCP influence operations are often under the mistaken impression that media, academic, and friendship organizations operate independently from the CCP, but “[m]ost, if not all, of the Chinese entities that engage with their peers abroad unequivocally serve national party goals—either by following official or unofficial guidelines, or by avoiding taking positions that might violate [CCP] guidelines or jeopardize the regime’s goals.”
In the early 2000s, Ye Jianming was the deputy secretary of CAIFC. Ye met with Hunter Biden at a Miami hotel in May 2017 and gave Hunter a 2.8-carat diamond worth $50,000. Ye and his associate Gongwen Dong (aka "Kevin"), applied to a bank and opened credit lines for a business named Hudson West III LLC, giving Hunter, Joe Biden's brother James Biden, and James’ wife Sarah Biden, credit cards which the Bidens used to buy extravagant items. Hunter called his father Joe Biden and his Chinese business partner “office mates” in an email to the general manager of the office building where he rented space for Hudson West III. “[P]lease have keys made available for new office mates,” Hunter Biden wrote in the email before listing Joe Biden, his stepmother Jill Biden, his uncle Jim Biden and Gongwen Dong ("Kevin") who he identified as the “emissary” for the chairman of CEFC. Hunter Biden also requested that a sign be made for his office stating “The Biden Foundation” and “Hudson West (CEFC US).”
Chinese Peoples’ Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries
Former Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt spoke at the Chinese Peoples’ Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) 2017 event “Healthier Future for Children,” a Beijing-based dialogue focusing on the efforts of the United Nations Every Woman Every Child China Partnership Network (EWECCPN).” Alongside Schmidt, CPAFFC Vice President Xie Yuan also spoke at the event.
CPAFFC called for participants to “actively support the action plan” designed by the conference and its United Nations sponsor. Among the requirement were “to encourage and coordinate members and other Chinese powers to participate more in international cooperation for improving women’s and children’s health under the strategic framework of the Belt and Road Initiative,” “to form bigger multi-level platform to share with the world China’s experiences and achievements,” and “to set up China’s great national image of full responsibility.”
A CPAFFC Summary outline remarks delivered by Schmidt, who served as CEO of the Save the Children Foundation at the time. Schmidt served on the Facebook Oversight board which voted to uphold the ban on President Trump in 2021. President Trump was a very strong outspoken critic of the Beijing regime.
Chinese Students and Scholars Associations
After the Tiananmen Massacre, the CCP increased ideological work targeting Chinese university students and subjected overseas Chinese students to aggressive methods of group management and extraterritorial influence. These efforts resulted in the creation of Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSA), which proliferated to include at least 142 chapters in the United States.
CSSAs receive funding and direction from the CCP through Chinese embassies and consulates—governmental ties CSSAs frequently attempt to conceal—and are active in carrying out overseas Chinese work consistent with Beijing’s United Front strategy. Journalists and activists have shown CSSAs to coordinate with the Chinese government and have been involved in the suppression of free speech and the harassment, intimidation, and surveillance of Chinese students.
- See also: Confucius Institute
A Confucius Institute is a program found in numerous universities in the U.S. and other countries. It is supported and funded by China's Communist Party. While ostensibly existing to promote learning Mandarin and cultural exchange, Confucius Institutes are effectively the foreign propaganda arm of China's Communist Party and can threaten academic freedom and national security.
CIA reports obtained by The Washington Free Beacon in 2012 revealed,
|"The [Chinese Communist Party] provides ‘strings-attached' funding to academic institutions and think tanks to deter research that casts it [the CCP] in a negative light. It has used this tactic to reward pro-China viewpoints and coerce Western academic publications and conferences to self-censor. The CCP often denies visas to academics who criticize the regime, encouraging many China scholars to preemptively self-censor so they can maintain access to the country on which their research depends."|
Elite U.S. colleges, a key junta constituent, spent thousands of dollars lobbying Democrats to halt federal probes into their multimillion-dollar partnership with China and other human rights abusers. House Democrats blocked passage of sweeping legislation against the Confucius Institute. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) refused to hold a vote on an anti-Confucius Institute bill that unanimously passed in the Senate in 2020. Confucius Institutes exert incredible pressure and leverage over universities, threatening to pull their funding to ensure that some topics like Taiwan, Tibet, Falun Gong and the Uyghurs are off-limits. Under the junta, the institutes rebranded themselves as the Asia Society Chinese Language Partner Network with more than 100 “Confucius classrooms” catering to the K-12 educational system in the United States. Sec. Mike Pompeo referred to the CCP threat as "within the gates."
China-United States Exchange Foundation
The China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) is registered under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). CUSEF’s has partnered with Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the Brookings Institution, CSIS, Atlantic Council, Center for American Progress, East-West Institute, Carter Center, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
School of Transnational Law
Natalie Winters of The National Pulse reports that financial supporters of Peking University’s School of Transnational Law (STL) include Thomson Reuters and the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF).
Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the keynote address for the school’s opening in 2008 alongside Tung Chee-Hwa, the founder of CUSEF and Vice-Chairman of the “highest-ranking entity overseeing” China’s United Front.
Senior Circuit Judge and Chief Judge Emeritus of the D.C. Court of Appeals Harry Edwards, Circuit Judge of the Court of Appeals for theNinth Circuit William Fletcher, and Chief Circuit Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit D. Brooks Smith have served as Visiting Lecturers at the school.
Judge Russel Canan, an Associate Judge at the Superior Court of D.C., is also a current Visiting Professor at Peking’s STL. Judge Frederick Weisberg simultaneously teaches at Peking University’s STL while serving as an Associate Judge on the D.C. Superior Court. Judge Robert Morin, who was promoted by Barack Obama to become the Chief Judge of the D.C. Superior Court before retiring, was a Visiting Professor at Peking University’s STL in 2012. Gerald Fisher, another D.C. Associate Justice, previously served as a visiting distinguished jurist at Peking University’s STL in 2012 and 2014.
Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences
The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) has been flagged by the FBI for its close ties to the CCP's top spy agency: the Ministry of State Security. The FBI labeled SASS as a “front group for Chinese intelligence collection and overseas spy recruitment” and has described the Chinese Communist Party as dependent upon SASS employees to serve “spotters and assessors” of potential Western spies. Ministry of State Security officers – described by the FBI as keen on “influencing the foreign policy of other countries” – have also “used SASS affiliation as cover identities.”
SASS was a key player in a 2019 criminal case involving a retired CIA operative selling classified U.S. defense documents to the CCP. Kevin Mallory was contacted by SASS officials via LinkedIn to begin the relationship that culminated in a 20-year prison sentence for Mallory.
Thomas Zimmerman – a Special Assistant to Joe Biden on National Security Agency personnel – formerly served as a visiting scholar at SASS. During the transition, Zimmerman served as a Deputy Lead for National Security Personnel. He also “hosted an academic salon” alongside CCP adviser Li Lifan on “topics concerning counter-terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, security issues in Central Asia, the US perspective on the One Belt One Road initiative, and security issues in South Asia” at the Shanghai Institute of American Studies (SIAS).
The Brookings Institution Doha Center, the think tank’s hub in Qatar, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in January 2018. The partnership piqued the FBI's interest about potential CCP espionage activities at the think tank, which employed nearly two dozen foreign policy advisers to the Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign.
Thousand Talents program
The CCP is stealing invaluable intellectual property through its Thousand Talents Program, co-opting researchers and scientists with the promise of financial gain for the benefit of the People's Liberation Army and state-owned or state-linked businesses. In June 2020, Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, was indicted for his involvement in this program which, through the Wuhan Institute of Technology, provided him a $50,000 monthly stipend, more than $150,000 in living expenses, and more than $1.5 million to establish a laboratory back in China — all of which he failed to disclose.
- According to the Department of Defense, perception management comprises “actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives.... Perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.” U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Publication 1-02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, April 12, 2001 (as amended through October 31, 2009), 411. http://jitc.fhu.disa.mil/jitc_dri/pdfs/jp1_02.pdf
- Christine Fang, leader of CSU, mainstay at Bay Area AAPI political events, slept with Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and multiple mayors to gain influence and is now accused of being a Chinese spy, Reddit
- CAIFC was established in 1984 by Deng Xiaoping, and his daughter Rong has been a vice-president of the organization since 1990. CAIFC is subordinate to what was formerly known as the GPD/LD intelligence bureau. A report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission described the CAIFC “…a front organization for the former General Political Department, performs dual roles of intelligence collection and conducting propaganda and perception management campaigns…”. It has been described as “…a major platform for the People’s Liberation Army General Political Department Liaison Department (GPD/LD) now subsumbed into the Central Military Commission Political Work Department.
- Casati, Cheryl (June 4, 2019). China’s Confucius Institutes Threaten Global Freedom. The Epoch Times. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
- Morin adjudicated cases in 2018 relating to anti-Donald Trump inaugural protestors, questioning the validity of Project Veritas videos as evidence, which led to prosecutors having to drop a number of charges against the rioters. “Wednesday’s hearing got even worse for the government after prosecutors announced they would drop the seven cases and dismiss several charges against three other remaining defendants. D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin said prosecutors erred by failing to disclose the existence of the additional Project Veritas videos to the defense and to the judge. Morin questioned whether the lead prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, gave him false information, noting that she told him at an earlier hearing that there was one video,” a Buzzfeed report summarized. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetillman/trump-inauguration-protests-project-veritas
- China’s Overseas United Front Work Background and Implications for the United States, U.S.-China Economic Review Commission Staff Research Report, Alexander Bowe, August 24, 2018.