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Policy report

The party speaks for you

Foreign interference and the Chinese Communist Party’s united front system
Communism Australia-China relations Relations with China Information dissemination Propaganda Totalitarian systems

In recent years, groups and individuals linked to the CCP’s United Front have attracted an unprecedented level of scrutiny for their links to political interference, economic espionage and influence on university campuses. In Australia, businessmen who were members of organisations with close ties to the United Front Work Department (UFWD) have been accused of interfering in Australian politics. In the US, at least two senior members of united front groups for scientists have been taken to court over alleged technology theft. Confucius Institutes, which are overseen with heavy involvement from the UFWD, have generated controversy for more than a decade for their effects on academic freedom and influence on universities. Numerous Chinese students and scholars associations, which are united front groups for Chinese international students, have been involved in suppressing academic freedom and mobilising students for nationalistic activities.

This paper dissects the CCP’s united front system and its role in foreign interference. It describes the broad range of agencies and goals of the united front system, rather than focusing only on the UFWD. 

It examines how the system is structured, how it operates, and what it seeks to achieve. It reveals how dozens of agencies play a role in the united front system’s efforts to transfer technology, promote propaganda, interfere in political systems and even influence executives of multinational companies.

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Policy Brief Report No.32/2020