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CHINA: Institutions of Influence Operations

Excepts from testimony in US Congress

The CCP’s organization of influence operations flows down from the Politburo StandingCommittee to the grassroots levels of the party. This is not an area in which we can say theCCP leadership does not know or that rogue actors are driving policy. United front andpropaganda work have been and continue to be key elements of the party’s day-to-dayoperations. Three layers exist in this system, including the responsible CCP officials, theexecutive/implementing agencies, and supporting agencies that

✔ On the first level, several CCP officials oversee the party organizations responsible forinfluence operations. They sit on the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) and thePolitburo. The senior-most united front official is the Chinese People’s Political ConsultativeConference (CPPCC) chairman, who is the fourth-ranking PBSC member. The other two arethe Politburo members who direct the United Front Work Department (UFWD) and thePropaganda Department. These two often sit on the CCP Secretariat, which is empowered tomake day-to-day decisions for the routine functioning of the party-state. Even a brief thumbnail sketch of the current office holders shows that these are individuals who haveproven themselves in party positions at every level, and, while some maybe Xi Jinping loyalists, they are basically competent officials who should be taken seriously. The currentholders of these positions are the following:

CPPCC Chairman Wang Yang: Wang is former vice premier and party secretary of
Guangdong Province and Chongqing. He rose through the party ranks in Anhui
Province, and he served as State Council deputy secretary and National Developmentand Planning Commission vice minister.

UFWD Director You Quan: You is the former party secretary of Fujian and served fortwo decades in progressively more senior staff positions in the State Council GeneralOffice.

Propaganda Department Director Huang Kunming: Huang moved up the party ranks, before taking over Zhejiang Propaganda Department in 2007 in his firstposition within this system. After a brief stint as Hangzhou Party Secretary in
2012-2013, he became a deputy director in the Propaganda Department.

✔The second level contains the three party organizations headed by the aforementioned leaders. These are the leading agencies through which the CCP builds political influence andpower.

Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC): The CPPCC, accordingto the organization’s website, is “an organization in the patriotic united front of theChinese people, an important organ for multiparty cooperation and politicalconsultation.” The advisory body mediates between important socials groups and theparty apparatus. The CPPCC is the place where all the relevant united front actorsinside and outside the party come together: party elders, intelligence officers,diplomats, propagandists, military officers and political commissars, united front
workers, academics, and businesspeople. They are gathered to receive instruction in
the proper propaganda lines and ways to characterize Beijing’s policies to both
domestic and foreign audiences. Many of these individuals, particularly if they hold
government positions, are known for their people handling skills and have
reputations for being smooth operators. CPPCC membership offers access to politicalcircles and minor perquisites like expedited immigration. The CPPCC standingcommittee includes twenty or so vice chairpeople who have a protocol rank
approximately the same level of a provincial party secretary. At the central level, theCPPCC includes more than 2,200 members, but the provincial and local levelsinclude another 615,000.

United Front Work Department (UFWD): The UFWD is the executive agency for
united front work. It has a variety of responsibilities at home and abroad, including inthe following areas: Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan affairs; ethnic and religiousaffairs; domestic and external propaganda; entrepreneurs and non-party personages;intellectuals; and people-to-people exchanges. The department also takes the lead inestablishing party committees in Chinese and now foreign businesses. The UFWDoperates at all levels of the party system from the center to the grassroots, and theCCP has had a united front department dating to the 1930s.

Propaganda Department: This department has been a core part of the CCP since1924. The official description of the Propaganda Department’s duties includes theparty’s theoretical research; guiding public opinion; guiding and coordinating thework of the central news agencies, including Xinhua and the People’s Daily; guidingthe propaganda and cultural systems; and administering the CyberspaceAdministration of China and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio,Film, and Television.

The Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO) does not fit easily into this framework. Theoffice’s leadership is not as senior as those of the UFWD, Propaganda Department, and theCPPCC, but it plays an important role in the CCP’s efforts to leverage Chinese abroad. TheOCAO is routinely involved Chinese communities overseas, and, from its central to locallevels, it brings community leaders, media figures, and researchers back to China formeetings and conferences. The official description includes several points relevant to the discussion here: “to enhance unity and friendship in overseas Chinese communities; to maintain contact with and support overseas Chinese media and Chinese language schools; [nd] to increase cooperation and exchanges between overseas Chinese and China - relatedto the economy, science, culture and education.”

✔ On the third level, many other party-state organizations contribute the party’s influenceoperations. Their focus is not on united front or propaganda work, but they still havecapabilities and responsibilities that can be used for these purposes. Many of these agenciesshare cover or front organizations when they are involved in influence operations, and suchplatforms are sometimes lent to other agencies when appropriate.
● Ministry of State Security
● Ministry of Foreign Affairs
● Ministry of Culture
● Ministry of Education
● State Administration for Foreign Expert Affairs
● Ministry of Civil Affairs
● Xinhua News Agency
● Liaison Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army Political Work Department

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