Chinese leader Xi Jinping urged the Communist Party to “win hearts and minds” in Taiwan and Hong Kong

Xi’s demand, made last weekend at a meeting of senior Chinese officials, was one of the most important tasks listed by the Chinese leader for the United Front Workers’ Section, an offshoot of the ruling Communist Party tasked with gaining influence both at home and abroad.

“The united front … is an important guarantee that (the Chinese Communist Party) can defeat the enemy, govern and rejuvenate the country, and rally the entire Chinese people both at home and abroad to carry out national rejuvenation,” Xi said. Jinping at the ceremony of the Beijing Conference on the Work of the United Front, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Xi said that as “profound changes” unseen in a century are taking place around the world, the United Front’s efforts are becoming “even more important.” This work, Xi Jinping said, should include efforts to “find the right balance between community and diversity” at home and “win the hearts and minds of people in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, as well as overseas Chinese.”

Hong Kong – the target of Xi’s crackdown after massive pro-democracy protests in the city three years ago – operates as a semi-autonomous entity under Beijing’s rule, just like Macau. Taiwan is a self-governing democracy that the Communist Party calls its own territory and with which it has said it seeks “reunification” despite never having ruled over it.

“Efforts must be made to strengthen the ranks of patriots abroad and help more foreigners understand and become friendly towards China,” Xi added.

United Front operations, including the Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs, which is responsible for services aimed at overseas Chinese citizens, have drawn negative international attention in recent years amid growing concerns about China’s push for global outreach.

The department also aroused the suspicions of foreign governments amid accusations it seeks to co-opt ethnic Chinese and others, silence dissidents and conduct foreign influence operations—accusations Beijing denies.

Meanwhile, domestic United Front operations, long seen as a way to quell possible opposition from the Communist Party, were viewed negatively internationally in light of the crackdown on certain religious and ethnic groups that also fell under the purview of the United States. Front.

“Critical Moment”

Xi, who raised the importance of the United Front’s work department during his first term, is seeking a third term this fall, an unprecedented move in decades and coming at a difficult time for China.

The country is facing multiple challenges, from a slowdown in the country’s economic growth to a significant decline in its global reputation, amid tensions with Western governments over China’s alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, its crackdown on civil society in Hong Kong, and threats against Taiwan. .

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This year also marks 100 years since the party launched its united front policy of building alliances with non-communist groups, which the country’s founding leader Mao Zedong called one of the “three magic weapons” leading to victory in the Chinese civil war. , along with armed struggle and party activities.

“The whole (this) dynamic … basically confirms to them that this is a critical moment for the Communist Party to exert its influence on the people of China who are not party members, as well as on key voters abroad who could potentially harm or help China and the Communist Party,” said Drew Thompson, visiting senior fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

“This is a critical moment in China’s development, so all aspects of China’s state power are committed to maintaining the party’s authority and promoting China’s development and achieving the ‘China Dream’,” Thompson added, referring to Xi Jinping’s longstanding vision of a powerful China.

“A Little Patience”

In his commentary, Xi called for strengthening the United Front in a “new era.”

He listed tasks including “cultivating a strong sense of community among the Chinese nation” in its “ethnic affairs” and developing religions “in a Chinese context,” which has been denounced by human rights activists as part of China’s recent suppression of religion and ethnic identity.

Xi also stressed the need to “unite all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation.” This phrase, according to analysts, indicates the party’s desire to unite with all ethnic Chinese, even those who are not Chinese citizens. Some ethnic Chinese have opposed this vision, which has become particularly controversial in light of allegations that some Western governments are unfairly persecuting people of Chinese descent in an effort to suppress alleged Chinese espionage.

Xi’s comments on the United Front also controversially include Taiwan in China’s “rejuvenation” plans and come at a time when tensions between the US and China over the island have escalated over the possible visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei this week.
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China criticized the possible visit, vowing to take “strong and decisive action” if it takes place. Last week, China’s defense ministry echoed the threat, warning: “If the US insists, the Chinese military will never sit idly by.”

But Xi’s hint at the importance of the United Front in Taiwan may indicate that Beijing favors “long-term, peaceful approaches” when it comes to its proclaimed goal of “reunification,” according to Wen-Ti Sung, a political scientist at the Australian National University’s Taiwan Studies Program. .

“It shows very subtly that despite all the heated rhetoric, (Beijing) needs to show some patience here,” Song said.

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