China’s United Front has worked behind the scenes for decades to convince Taiwan’s elite that their country should welcome a takeover by Beijing.
Date: Oct. 28, 2020
By: Brendon Hong
.HONG KONG—When Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping visited a military base in Southeast China this month, he told members of the party’s Marine Corps to “focus your minds and energy on preparing to go to war.” His speech came shortly after the Trump administration said it would move forward with a $7 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which China has threatened to retaliate against if it goes through.
Xi has long wanted to absorb Taiwan under the Communist Party’s rule—he’s openly stated his ambition to “reunify” the democratic island with mainland China while he is the party’s helmsman. And his strategy to dominate Taiwan includes more than gunboats, jets, and boots on the ground. For decades, party leadership in Beijing has leaned on what Xi calls his “magic weapon” to leverage trade relationships and shared ethnic roots to lay the groundwork for entrenched CCP influence in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Chinese diaspora abroad: wielding soft power through China’s United Front Work Department.
Compared to the CCP’s military jingoism and propaganda-spreading “wolf warrior” diplomats, the United Front works behind the scenes, often targeting wealthy individuals with transnational holdings to do the CCP’s bidding through persuasion, economic incentives, and blackmail, or by funneling money toward grassroots organizations that shape opinions about the party among Taiwanese, Hong Kong, and expat Chinese communities. [FULL STORY]