The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has published an extensive study examining the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) influence operations in the Xinjiang diaspora. The study found that the CCP uses community organizations in the Chinese diaspora as conduits for promoting the party’s Xinjiang narrative and that some are captured by United Front officials. According to the ASPI study:
July 6, 2022 All governments seek to assert their influence abroad. China is no exception. Yet the CCP is different in the deceptive and coercive nature of its influence operations, which can undermine the sovereignty and interests of other countries and negatively affect the lives and liberties of diasporic community members in those countries. This report explores community groups and individuals in the Xinjiang diaspora that are linked to the CCP’s united front system, as well as the methods and tactics used by that system to activate and guide them. […] Our findings demonstrate the following: * the CCP is systematically collecting information on members of the Xinjiang diaspora and creating databases that could strengthen the party’s overseas surveillance and interference work. * community organisations in the Chinese diaspora and their elites are frequently used as conduits for promoting the party’s Xinjiang narrative and policies and are actively cultivated, and at times captured, by united front officials. * some senior members of these organisations also hold prominent positions in China-based united front organs, which enables them to more effectively coordinate activities and promote the party’s agenda. * the influence of CCP-linked community groups extends well beyond the Xinjiang diaspora, and some groups have secured the open or tacit endorsement of local politicians while influencing local public opinion. * united front agencies leverage cultural events, language learning, business opportunities and political honours to entice and unify overseas Chinese behind the CCP’s hegemonic abstractions of ‘China’ and ‘Chineseness’ while marginalising, silencing and delegitimising CCP critics, and identities and cultures not approved by the party.
The United Front Work Department is a little-known Beijing-based agency with branches worldwide. It seeks to implement the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) plans to establish an extensive network of associations, business groups, friendship societies, and/or cultural groups supportive of the CCP and to ensure that its overseas citizens, and others of ethnic Chinese descent, stay loyal. According to a US government report, United Front work promotes Beijing’s preferred global narrative, pressures individuals living in free societies to self-censor and avoid discussing issues unfavorable to the CCP and instead harass or undermine groups critical of Beijing’s policies.
Under the rule of Xi Jinping, engagement with the diaspora has become an instrument of Chinese soft power and influence. In May, the Global Influence Operations Report reported on another ASPI report examining the Chinese government’s United Front activities in Europe and North America, detailing its involvement with the Chinese diaspora. The report explained that “the united front system prefers to operate with some plausible deniability, by funding or co-opting interest groups designed to promote solidarity among members of the Chinese diaspora.” In July, we reported that the Chinese government ran a social media disinformation campaign targeting the Chinese diaspora.