For most of the last 50 years the United Front (aka the Central United Front Work Department, UF, UFW, UFWD and CUFWD) had five broad “bureau’s” each with large budgets and direct connections to the Chinese Government, Politburo and Communist Party. However, by 2019 President for life Xi Jinping had doubled the size this highly successful government agency to 12 “bureaus”, as shown on the right.
If you just skim the list you will not be that impressed but if you spend a few minutes reviewing what each does, you will be surprised by the depth and complexity of the Chinese diaspora system.
Typically the United Front is referred to in publications with titles like:
- New Structures for a New Era of Diaspora and Religious Affairs Work SOURCE
- Inside China’s secret ‘magic weapon’ for worldwide influence SOURCE
- How China uses shadowy United Front as ‘magic weapon’ to try to extend its influence in Canada SOURCE
These articles appear to be accurate and useful but do not explore the full extent of the disinformation and fear machine that is the United Front Work Department. Below is our brief on each bureau based primarily on three reliable and experienced sources noted at the end of this article:
1 – Minor Parties Work Bureau
This bureau that manages and controls the nine legally allowed non-communist parties inside China. This grouping is called “United Front” but many inside and ourside China point out that:
“…these parties are fabrications of the CCP, designed to give the appearance of a multi-party democracy and this branch of the United Front places representatives of the fake parties in various branches of government…” SOURCE
2 – Ethnic Work Bureau (aka Minorities & Religions Bureau)
This UF branch monitors and controls the 55+ officially recognized minority groups in China.
“…The aim is to mange these groups so that they do not become separatist organizations and to ensure they understand their culters and religions are subservient to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party)”… SOURCE
3 – Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Overseas Liaison Work Bureau
This group is responsible to tamp down independent sentiments in locations off the Chinese Mainland. Originally it was focused just on China’s ‘special administrative regions’ of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau:
“(it is about) …undermining the islanders dedication to their independence…” SOURCE
Today however, it put serious efforts in to controlling the 50 million ethnic Chinese living abroad.
“…the one of most concern to (your country here)…” SOURCE
You might be interested in our articles on the fascinating stories of:
- how Hong Kong’s problems today were caused by a drug trade 150 years ago
- how Taiwan came into existence
“…The targets, laid out in the 2015 Trial Regulations on United Front Work are: members of minor parties, individuals with no party affiliation; non-party intellectuals; ethnic minorities; religious figures; private businessmen; new social strata individuals; overseas and returned overseas students; people from Hong Kong and Macau, Taiwanese and their relatives in the mainland; overseas Chinese, returned overseas Chinese, and relatives of overseas Chinese; and “any others who need to be liaised with and united” (Peoples Daily, September 23, 2015).” SOURCE
4 – Non-Public Economy Work Bureau
This bureau spends its time and resources manipulating private companies and citizens inside the Chinese mainland.
These Chinese government officials control primarily non-CCP community leaders and students that have received education in Western countries.
“… train UF cadres, working to maintain support for the CCP among poor people left behind in China’s economic revolution… … among artists intellectuals, and other people who are influential but who are not affiliated with the CCP.” SOURCE
“… platform for interacting with ethnic Chinese scientists and promoting technology transfer…” SOURCE
6 – New Social Strata Individuals Work Bureau
This group was added in 2015 under President Xi Jinping is responsible to co-opt managerial staff in foreign companies and ‘new media’ professionals. One can infer from the name that it targets upwardly mobile managers living outside mainland China and those in social media.
7 – Tibet Work Bureau
You can don’t have to be brilliant to that that this group suppresses separatist sentiments and cultivates loyalty to the Chinese mainland, particularly the CCP.
“…Several thousand Tibetans traveling on Chinese passports to India for a January 2017 teaching by the Dalai Lama were forced to return early when officials in Tibetan areas attempted to confiscate passports, threatening retaliation against those travelling abroad and their family members back home…” SOURCE
Xinjiang is a province north west part of the country that is currently unruled and the CCP under President XI would like to change that. The areas population are called Uyghurs (pronounced wE-grs) and it has a large Mulsim population
“…In the camps, officials seek to brainwash prisoners to disavow Islam and pledge loyalty to the Communist Party, and torture those who refuse…” SOURCE
9 – Overseas Chinese Affairs General Bureau
The Overseas GENERAL bureau deals with both Chinese nationals and ethnic Chinese that are living abroad.
10 – Overseas Chinese Affairs Bureau
The Overseas Chinese Affairs bureau deals Chinese students living abroad and media from those countries:
“…A number of official and quasi-official entities conduct overseas activities guided or funded by the United Front including Chinese government and military organizations, cultural and “friendship” associations, and overseas academic groups such as Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSAs) and Confucius Institutes.”
“…Confucius Institutes have been documented to organize protests against topics deemed threats to the stability of CCP rule* and to distort history (e.g., by inviting speakers who repeat CCP propaganda points about Tibet and by claiming the United States drew China into the Korean War by bombing Chinese villages, as a video posted to the Hanban’s website did).” SOURCE
11 – Religious Work Bureau – Schools
This office was established in 2018 and not very much is known about it beyond its focus on controlling primarily Islamic schools.
12 – Religious Work Bureau – Religions
This office was also established in 2018 and has several divisions that focus on controlling specific religions:
“…the Twelfth Bureau has a Protestantism division (Gospel Times.cn, December 13, 2018), Daoism division (China Net, December 20, 2018) and a Buddhism division (Dangdai Fojiao.cn, December 26, 2018), as well as other divisions that may focus on Islam and Catholicism.” SOURCE
There are not many authoritative sources of detailed information on the secretive United Front Work Department. To keep the article free from too much editorializing and stick to the know facts we drew most of our information from three primary sources. If you want more details, we suggest you read each of these in the order provided below:
- In his aptly titled 2019 book ‘Claws of the Panda’, Johnathan Manthorpe details all seven departments with insights and clarity we have not seen before.
- In August 2018 the US Government published an article titled: China’s Overseas United Front Work: Background and Implications for the United States
- June 2019 saw an excellent article from the Journal of Contemporary East Asia Studies titled: China’s United Front Work in the Xi Jinping era – institutional developments and activities