by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop revealed much information, including Hunter’s shady business dealings in Ukraine and China, raising questions about the extent to which President Biden was involved in his son’s business activities. This ongoing scandal lifted the curtain of foreign governments’ covert influence campaigns in the United States. No government has conducted such influence campaigns more effectively than Communist China.
To understand China’s influence campaigns on foreign soil, one has to get familiar with a secretive Chinese government agency, the United Front Work Department (UFWD), or United Front. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) established UFWD in the 1930s, aiming to recruit famous intellectuals, writers, teachers, students, publishers, and business leaders who were not necessarily Communists.
These recruits promoted the CCP’s agenda, influenced public opinion in favor of the CCP in territory ruled by the Nationalist Party, and helped the CCP secure the weapons, medicine, and other resources to overthrow the Nationalist-led government. Then-CCP leader Mao Zedong called the United Front a “magic weapon” for the CCP.
When Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012, he greatly expanded the UFWD and elevated the UFWD’s status by having a politburo member, Ms. Sun Chunlan, head the UFWD. Today, the UFWD’s headquarters in Beijing is located in an unmarked but heavily guarded building next to the CCP’s leadership compound. This location says the highest power in the nation directly endorses its mission and strategy.
UFWD workers are assigned to many government branches inside and outside China, including almost all Chinese embassies, which now include staff formally working with United Front. The UFWD is tasked with helping the CCP aggressively and yet covertly dictate its messages and narratives about China. UFWD’s goal is to gather information and either win over or co-opt support for the CCP. It is to attack and neutralize potential dissent and opposition inside and outside China.