CCP’s United Front in the U.S.
CCP’s United Front in the U.S.
BMW apologizes after posting a self-help quote from the Dalai Lama on Instagram. A city councilman in California doesn’t allow a local human rights group in a New Year’s parade. A Chinese entrepreneur donates hundreds of thousands to a political candidate. A PRC spy is found in a Senator’s office. Who’s behind all these seemingly unrelated incidents and countless others? The aptly named United Front.
The United Front Work Department is one of the CCP’s broadest and most powerful political structures. Chairman Xi Jinping calls it a “magic weapon.” Internationally, it handles everything from propaganda and censorship to espionage and bribery to cultural and political subversion. But among its key goals is also to exacerbate America’s racial tensions, undermine social cohesion, and influence U.S. politics.
The United Front’s strategic mission is to empower the CCP, enhancing Beijing’s global image, promoting CCP narratives (about, say, Covid-19), quieting opposing voices and dissent, and winning allies in government, media, think tanks, and academia who can help obtain CCP objectives. These relationships are then deployed to gather information, encourage self-censorship, and steal sensitive technologies.
Simply put, the United Front is the way the CCP “uses propaganda and influence operations as a means of projecting its power and weakening its enemies.” Its top target is the U.S.
The United Front works closely with the CCP politburo, with PRC foreign missions, consulates, and with the Ministry of State Security (China’s KGB). Its institutions include not only a range of front organizations with benign-sounding names (China Overseas Exchange Association, China Overseas Friendship Association, and China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, Chinese People’s Association for International Friendship…) but also Chinese Student and Scholar Associations at all the major U.S universities, Confucius Institutes across the country (the U.S. has more than any other), and media entities targeting not only the Chinese diaspora but non-Chinese Americans: China Global Television Network, China Daily, and paid ads of CCP propaganda inserted discretely as news content in the leading papers (NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post…), as well as a vast network of spies and operatives that has become one of the FBI’s “top counterintelligence priority.”
Moreover, according to the U.S. State Department, “The United Front frequently intimidates members of academia, businesses, civil society groups, and Chinese diaspora communities,” especially if they wish to speak out about horrific human rights abuses and genocide in China. As a result, the CCP’s United Front seeks to control what we know about and think about China.
But of equal concern is United Front operations seeking to subvert democratic processes in the U.S. According to scholar Jichang Lulu, United Front organizations “re-purpose democratic governance structures to serve as tools of extraterritorial influence.”
The U.S. experienced CCP election interference as early as 1996, and multiple political candidates from both major parties have been implicated in receiving money that originated in Beijing and was funneled through corporations, NGOs, and even Buddhist temples. At its root, the United Front is a long-standing Leninist tactic to temporarily forge opportunistic alliances and co-opt adversaries only to then betray them should they step out of line or their usefulness expire.