China’s Communist Party targets Chinese abroad to rally support

Jun Mai
·2-min read

China’s Communist Party has doubled down on its controversial “united front” efforts, with new guidelines to rally support for the country and party among Chinese citizens abroad.

“[We must] strengthen guidance of thought and promote the love for the motherland, the Communist Party and socialism with Chinese characteristics among overseas Chinese citizens and overseas students,” one of the regulations released on Tuesday said.

The document said work must be done to contain “Taiwan-independence forces” and better safeguard China’s core interests among Chinese citizens overseas.

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Chinese Communist Party introduces new rules on what members can say

The regulations were endorsed by the party’s ruling body, the Politburo, in November and released with less than six months until the party’s centenary, a key event on this year’s political calendar.

They are an update of a previous version of united front work regulations passed in 2015.

The party has sought to raise support among prominent social groups for decades, setting up the United Front Work Department to court leaders in the private sector, the scientific community, religion and overseas Chinese, who are not members of the party.

However, the department has been a major focus of opposition in the West over what critics say is Beijing’s campaign to influence and infiltrate democratic societies.

In December, the US announced new visa restrictions on Chinese government officials who belonged to or were affiliated with the department.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also accused the department of seeking to “co-opt and coerce sub-national leaders, overseas Chinese communities, academia and other civil society groups both in the United States and other countries”.

Beijing has firmly denied the claims, saying it does not interfere with the domestic affairs of other countries or export its ideology.

Why did China’s Communist Party elite need a lecture on the US?

In addition to a new chapter on united front work among Chinese overseas, the regulations include a new section on “the new social stratum”, a reference to executives in private and foreign companies as well as people in new media and the self-employed.

The new regulations also include a pledge to protect the “lawful rights” of Chinese citizens overseas, another term often used by Chinese officials and diplomats when accusing US law enforcement agencies of discriminating against Chinese scientists and students.

President Xi Jinping has made united front work more of a priority than his predecessors, expanding the department in 2018 and giving it a bigger role in the country’s ethnic and religious policies.

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