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 and people's organizations 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]

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. All CCP cadres are required to engage in "united front work".[7] CPPCC is considered to be the highest-ranking united front organization, being central to the system. Outside of China, the strategy involves numerous front organizations, which tend to obfuscate or downplay any association with the CCP.[8][9][10]


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).[citation needed]

The united front "assumed its current form" in 1946,[11] 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.[11]


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".[11] Inside China, leaders of formal united front organizations are selected by the CCP, or are themselves CCP members.[12] 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.[7]

United Front Work Department

Main article: United Front Work Department

Entrance to UFWD headquarters in Beijing

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,[13][14] which ostensibly 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.[11]


See also: Political warfare, 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.[15][7][16] In theory, the united front existed to give front organizations and non-Communist forces a platform in society.[17] Historically, the CCP co-opted and re-purposed non-Communist organizations to become part of the united front through tactics of entryism.[18] 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.[19][20][21] Scholar Jichang Lulu noted that united front organizations abroad "re-purpose democratic governance structures to serve as tools of extraterritorial influence".[22] Scholar Martin Thorley states that the united front's "main purposes are to neutralize threats to the party and ensure desirable scenarios for the party".[23] 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.[19][24]

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."[13] According to scholar Anne-Marie Brady, "united front work is a task of all CCP agencies (some more than others) as well as a basic task of every CCP member."[25] Nearly all Chinese embassies include staff that are formally tasked with united front work.[26] Embassies and consulates also maintain networks of "consular volunteers" that engage in united front work.[27]

Scholar Jeffrey Stoff also argues that the CCP's "influence apparatus intersects with or directly supports its global technology transfer apparatus."[28][29] 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.[30]

According to the Taiwanese Mainland Affairs Council, the united front uses internet celebrities to carry out infiltration campaigns on social media.[31] United front groups have also been linked to organized crime in several countries.[32][33]

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.[34][35] 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.[36]

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".[37] 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."[37] According to French journalist Roger Faligot, the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre led to the "growing use of party organizations, such as the United Front Work Department and friendship associations, as fronts for intelligence operations."[38]

Organizations affiliated with the united front

Further information: List of political parties in China and People's organization

In 2020, Newsweek identified nearly 600 united front organizations in the United States[39] and 384 in the United Kingdom as of 2023.[23]

Organizations managed by or affiliated with the United Front Work Department

Other united front organizations

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.
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  6. ^ Tatlow, Didi Kirsten (12 July 2019). "The Chinese Influence Effort Hiding in Plain Sight". The Atlantic. ISSN 1072-7825. Archived from the original on 17 July 2019. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
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  8. ^ Joske, Alex (22 July 2019). "The Central United Front Work Leading Small Group: Institutionalising united front work". Sinopsis. Archived from the original on 3 May 2020. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  9. ^ 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.
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