Inside China’s secretive United Front – Louisa Lim
The Communist Party's shadowy United Front Work department has emerged stronger than ever after the most recent government reshuffle. This body, which President Xi Jinping referred to in 2014 as a “magic weapon” for achieving the “rejuvenation of the Chinese race,” has now taken over responsibility for all work related to ethnic minority groups, religious management and contact with overseas Chinese, along with its main task of winning hearts and minds overseas.
“It makes clear what was generally the case all along: the United Front Work Department was the arbiter behind the government departments carrying out this work,” says Dr Gerry Groot of the University of Adelaide, who specialises in the United Front Work Department (UFWD), over email. “Though many people researching areas like religion and ethnic affairs knew that the UFWD was the real power or at least important, it is remarkable how rarely this was acknowledged in published work,” he continued. “That pretence of a separation between Party, government and civil society is now over.”