United Front Work Department Comes Under Xi’s Direction

You Quan, the former Party secretary of Fujian Province, was appointed United Front Work Department (UFWD) head on Nov. 7.

Why it matters: Both the UFWD and the foreign affairs apparatus were in the hands of Jiang Zemin’s faction before the 19th Party Congress. The Jiang faction frequently abused both apparatus to create trouble for Xi Jinping during his diplomatic trips.

The backdrop:

  • The UFWD is the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) domestic and overseas agitprop and subversion organ. Its mission is to bring democratic parties, social organizations, ethnic minorities, religious groups, and overseas Chinese communities in line with the CCP agenda.
  • The UFWD also seeks to groom individuals or groups as CCP agents. Chinese student organizations abroad, clan associations, and even politicians have been targeted, with varying degrees of success.
    • An example of UFWD action abroad are the various red flag-waving committees that throng the sidewalks to welcome visiting Chinese leaders.
  • The previous two UFWD heads, Ling Jihua and Sun Chunlan, were Politburo members. So the appointment of You Quan, a Central Committee member, as UFWD director returns the apparatus to its original lower status.  
  • You Quan spend 22 years as director of the State Council’s General Office before his appointment as State Council Deputy Secretary-General.

Our take:

  1. You Quan and Li Keqiang had a close working relationship. When Li was CCP Vice Chairman from 2007 to 2012, You Quan planned his daily routine as State Council Executive Deputy Secretary-General.
  2. Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are political allies. So the appointment of You Quan as UFWD head and the likely appointment of Wang Yang as chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference—the political advisory body that oversees united front work—brings the CCP’s united front portfolio firmly under Xi’s direction.
  3. Xi will likely shift the CCP’s handling of Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and other overseas affairs away from the confrontational approach adopted by the Jiang faction towards a policy of appeasement.