United Front
Simplified Chinese统一战线
Traditional Chinese統一戰綫
Socialist United Front
Simplified Chinese社会主义统一战线
Traditional Chinese社會主義統一戰綫
Patriotic United Front
Simplified Chinese爱国(主义)统一战线
Traditional Chinese愛國(主義)統一戰綫
People's Democratic United Front
Simplified Chinese人民民主统一战线
Traditional Chinese人民民主統一戰綫
Revolutionary United Front
Simplified Chinese革命统一战线
Traditional Chinese革命統一戰綫

The United Front[a] is a political strategy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) involving networks of groups and key individuals that are influenced or controlled by the CCP and used to advance its interests. It has historically been a popular front that has included eight legally-permitted political parties which have nominal representation in the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).[3] Under CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, the United Front and its targets of influence have expanded in size and scope.[4][5][6][7][8]

United Front organizations are managed primarily by the United Front Work Department (UFWD), but the United Front strategy is not limited solely to the UFWD. Outside of China, the strategy involves numerous front organizations, which tend to obfuscate or downplay any association with the CCP.[9][10][11][12]


Further information: First United Front and Second United Front

The CCP organized the "National Revolution United Front" (simplified Chinese: 国民革命统一战线; traditional Chinese: 國民革命統一戰綫; pinyin: Guómín gémìng tǒngyī zhànxiàn) with the Kuomintang during the Northern Expedition of 1926–1928 and then the "Workers' and Peasants' Democratic United Front" (simplified Chinese: 工农民主统一战线; traditional Chinese: 工農民主統一戰綫; pinyin: Gōngnóng mínzhǔ tǒngyī zhànxiàn) in the Chinese Soviet Republic era of 1931–1937. Mao Zedong originally promoted the "Anti-Japanese National United Front" (simplified Chinese: 抗日民族统一战线; traditional Chinese: 抗日民族統一戰綫; pinyin: Kàngrì mínzú tǒngyī zhànxiàn), with the name indicating that the proletarian Chinese Communists had united with the bourgeoisie against Imperial Japan[13] in the 1930s.

The United Front "assumed its current form" in 1946,[14] three years before the CCP defeated the authoritarian governing party Kuomintang's Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek. Mao credited the United Front as one of his "Three Magic Weapons" against the Kuomintang—alongside the Leninist Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army—and credited the Front with playing a part in the Chinese Communist Revolution.[14][15]


The two organs historically affiliated with United Front are the United Front Work Department and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). According to Yi-Zheng Lian, the organs "are often poorly understood outside China because there are no equivalents for them in the West".[14] Inside China, leaders of formal United Front organizations are selected by the CCP, or are themselves CCP members.[16] In practice, United Front member parties and allied people's organizations are subservient to the CCP, and must accept the CCP's "leading role" as a condition of their continued existence.[4]

United Front Work Department

Main article: United Front Work Department

The United Front Work Department is headed by the chief of the secretariat of the CCP's Central Committee. It oversees front organizations and their affiliates in multiple countries such as the Chinese Students and Scholars Association,[9][17] which helps Chinese students and academics studying or residing in the West, enjoining them to conduct "people-to-people diplomacy" on behalf of the People's Republic of China.[14]


See also: Influence operations, United Front in Taiwan, and United Front in Hong Kong

The United Front is a political strategy that the CCP has used to influence beyond its immediate circles while downplaying direct associations with the CCP.[7][4][18] In theory, the United Front existed to give front organizations and non-Communist forces a platform in society.[19] Historically, the CCP co-opted and re-purposed non-Communist organizations to become part of the United Front through tactics of entryism.[20] However, scholars describe the contemporary United Front as a complex network of organizations that engage in various types of surveillance and political warfare for the CCP.[21][22][23] Scholar Jichang Lulu noted that United Front organizations abroad "re-purpose democratic governance structures to serve as tools of extraterritorial influence."[24] Additionally, many non-governmental organizations in China or connected to China have been described as government-organized non-governmental organization (GONGOs) that are organized under the CCP's United Front system.[21][25]

According to a 2018 report by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, "United Front work serves to promote Beijing’s preferred global narrative, pressure individuals living in free and open societies to self-censor and avoid discussing issues unfavorable to the CCP, and harass or undermine groups critical of Beijing’s policies."[9] According to Financial Times, nearly all Chinese embassies include staff that are formally tasked with United Front work.[26]

Scholar Jeffrey Stoff also argues that the CPP's "influence apparatus intersects with or directly supports its global technology transfer apparatus."[27][28] In 2019, the United Front's aggregate budget across multiple institutions was estimated at over $2.6 billion which was larger than the Chinese Foreign Ministry's budget.[29]

According to the Taiwanese Mainland Affairs Council, the United Front uses internet celebrities to carry out infiltration campaigns on social media.[30]

Starting in January 2020, United Front-linked organizations in Canada and other countries were activated to purchase, stockpile, and export personal protective equipment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in mainland China.[31][32] In September 2020, the CCP announced that it would strengthen United Front work in the private sector by establishing more party committees in regional federations of industry and commerce (FIC), and by arranging a special liaison between FICs and the CCP.[33]

Relationship with intelligence agencies

See also: Chinese intelligence activity abroad and Ministry of State Security (China)

In 1939, Zhou Enlai espoused "nestling intelligence within the united front" while also "using the united front to push forth intelligence."[34] According to Australian analyst Alex Joske, "the united front system provides networks, cover and institutions that intelligence agencies use for their own purposes." Joske added that "united front networks are a golden opportunity for Party's spies because they represent groups of Party-aligned individuals who are relatively receptive to clandestine recruitment."[34]

See also


  1. ^ Formerly known as the People's Democratic United Front (1945–1966)[1] and the Revolutionary United Front (1966–1978).[2]


  1. ^ 1954 Constitution, http://www.npc.gov.cn/wxzl/wxzl/2000-12/26/content_4264.htm Archived 16 August 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ 1975 Constitution: http://www.npc.gov.cn/wxzl/wxzl/2000-12/06/content_4362.htm Archived 5 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine ; 1978 Constitution: http://www.npc.gov.cn/wxzl/wxzl/2000-12/06/content_4365.htm Archived 29 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "The United Front in Communist China" (PDF). Central Intelligence Agency. May 1957. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 January 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Brady, Anne-Marie (2017). "Magic Weapons: China's political influence activities under Xi Jinping" (PDF). Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. S2CID 197812164. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Groot, Gerry (19 September 2016), Davies, Gloria; Goldkorn, Jeremy; Tomba, Luigi (eds.), "The Expansion of the United Front Under Xi Jinping" (PDF), The China Story Yearbook 2015: Pollution (1st ed.), ANU Press, doi:10.22459/csy.09.2016.04a, ISBN 978-1-76046-068-6, retrieved 31 August 2020
  6. ^ Joske, Alex (9 June 2020). "The party speaks for you: Foreign interference and the Chinese Communist Party's united front system". Australian Strategic Policy Institute. JSTOR resrep25132. Archived from the original on 9 June 2020. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  7. ^ a b Groot, Gerry (24 September 2019). "The CCP's Grand United Front abroad". Sinopsis. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  8. ^ Tatlow, Didi Kirsten (12 July 2019). "The Chinese Influence Effort Hiding in Plain Sight". The Atlantic. ISSN 1072-7825. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Bowe, Alexander (24 August 2018). "China's Overseas United Front Work: Background and Implications for the United States" (PDF). United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 September 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  10. ^ Joske, Alex (22 July 2019). "The Central United Front Work Leading Small Group: Institutionalising united front work". Sinopsis. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  11. ^ Hamilton, Clive; Ohlberg, Mareike (2020). Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping the World. New York: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 978-1-78607-784-4. OCLC 1150166864.
  12. ^ Yoshihara, Toshi; Bianchi, Jack (1 July 2020). "Uncovering China's Influence in Europe: How Friendship Groups Coopt European Elites". Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Archived from the original on 16 July 2020. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  13. ^ Compare: "Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. INTRODUCING THE COMMUNIST: October 4, 1939". Marxist.org. 4 October 1939. Archived from the original on 15 July 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2018. Although the united front was formed and has been maintained for three years now, the bourgeoisie, and especially the big bourgeoisie, has constantly been trying to destroy our Party, the big bourgeois capitulators and die-hards have been instigating serious friction throughout the country, and the anti-Communist clamour is incessant. All this is being used by the big bourgeois capitulators and die-hards to prepare the way for capitulating to Japanese imperialism, breaking up the united front and dragging China backwards. Ideologically, the big bourgeoisie is trying to "corrode" communism, whilst politically and organizationally it is trying to liquidate the Communist Party, the Border Region and the Party's armed forces.
  14. ^ a b c d Lian, Yi-Zheng (21 May 2018). "China Has a Vast Influence Machine, and You Don't Even Know It". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 22 May 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  15. ^ Compare: "Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. INTRODUCING THE COMMUNIST: October 4, 1939". Marxist.org. 4 October 1939. Archived from the original on 15 July 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2018. ... our eighteen years of experience have taught us that the united front, armed struggle and Party building are the Chinese Communist Party's three 'magic weapons', its three principal magic weapons for defeating the enemy in the Chinese revolution.
  16. ^ Suli, Zhu (2009), Balme, Stéphanie; Dowdle, Michael W. (eds.), ""Judicial Politics" as State-Building", Building Constitutionalism in China, New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, pp. 23–36, doi:10.1057/9780230623958_2, ISBN 978-1-349-36978-2
  17. ^ Thorley, Martin (5 July 2019). "Huawei, the CSSA and beyond: "Latent networks" and Party influence within Chinese institutions". Asia Dialogue. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  18. ^ Slyke, Lyman P. Van (1967). Enemies and Friends: The United Front in Chinese Communist History. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-0618-6. LCCN 67026531. OCLC 1148955311. OL 5547801M.
  19. ^ Clarke, Donald C. (15 November 2009). "New Approaches to the Study of Political Order in China". Modern China. 36 (1): 87–99. doi:10.1177/0097700409347982. ISSN 0097-7004. S2CID 30237200.
  20. ^ Leung, Edwin Pak-wah (16 October 2002). Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Civil War. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6609-6.
  21. ^ a b Fedasiuk, Ryan (13 April 2022). "How China's united front system works overseas". The Strategist. Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  22. ^ deLisle, Jacques (2020). "Foreign Policy through Other Means: Hard Power, Soft Power, and China's Turn to Political Warfare to Influence the United States". Orbis. 64 (2): 174–206. doi:10.1016/j.orbis.2020.02.004. PMC 7102532. PMID 32292215.
  23. ^ Yoshihara, Toshi (2020). "Evaluating the Logic and Methods of China's United Front Work". Orbis. Foreign Policy Research Institute. 64 (2): 230–248. doi:10.1016/j.orbis.2020.02.006. S2CID 240821080.
  24. ^ Lulu, Jichang (26 November 2019). "Repurposing democracy: The European Parliament China Friendship Cluster". Sinopsis. Archived from the original on 10 December 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  25. ^ French, Paul (4 February 2012). "China Briefing Part 3: Civil society - The land of the Gongo". Reuters. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  26. ^ "Inside China's secret 'magic weapon' for worldwide influence". Financial Times. 26 October 2017. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  27. ^ Stoff, Jeffrey (3 August 2020), Hannas, William C.; Tatlow, Didi Kirsten (eds.), "China's Talent Programs", China’s Quest for Foreign Technology (1 ed.), Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 38–54, doi:10.4324/9781003035084-4, ISBN 978-1-003-03508-4, OCLC 1153338764, S2CID 225397660
  28. ^ Joske, Alex; Stoff, Jeffrey (3 August 2020), Hannas, William C.; Tatlow, Didi Kirsten (eds.), "The United Front and Technology Transfer", China’s Quest for Foreign Technology (1 ed.), Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 258–274, doi:10.4324/9781003035084-20, ISBN 978-1-003-03508-4, OCLC 1153338764, S2CID 225395399, archived from the original on 22 November 2020, retrieved 26 November 2020
  29. ^ Fedasiuk, Ryan (16 September 2020). "Putting Money in the Party's Mouth: How China Mobilizes Funding for United Front Work". China Brief. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  30. ^ Li-hua, Chung (27 September 2020). "China uses Web stars for infiltration". Taipei Times. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  31. ^ Cooper, Sam (30 April 2020). "United Front groups in Canada helped Beijing stockpile coronavirus safety supplies". Global News. Archived from the original on 30 April 2020. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  32. ^ Prasso, Sheridan (17 September 2020). "China's Epic Dash for PPE Left the World Short on Masks: The humanitarian campaign saved lives but has made foreign governments wary of the long reach of the organizer, the Communist Party's United Front". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  33. ^ "Opinions on Strengthening the United Front Work of Private Economy in the New Era". Xinhua. Archived from the original on 19 October 2020. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  34. ^ a b Joske, Alex (2022). "Nestling spies in the united front". Spies and Lies: How China's Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World. Hardie Grant Books. pp. 24–39. ISBN 978-1-74358-900-7. OCLC 1347020692.