‘Conquer hearts and minds’ in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Chinese leader Xi urges Communist Party | CNN


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Chinese leader Xi Jinping has urged the Communist Party to win “hearts and minds” from people in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as part of a “national rejuvenation”.

Xi’s demand, made over the weekend at a meeting attended by top Chinese officials, was one of a number of crucial tasks listed by the Chinese leader for the United Front Work Department – a branch of the ruling Communist Party that charged with gaining influence both at home and overseas.

“The united front … is an important assurance for (the Chinese Communist Party) to defeat the enemy, rule and rejuvenate the country, and rally all Chinese at home and abroad to realize national rejuvenation,” Xi said on the conference in Beijing. on United Front Work, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

As there were “profound changes” globally that hadn’t happened in a century, Xi said, the United Front’s efforts were “even more important”. That work should include efforts to “strike the right balance between community and diversity” domestically and “win the hearts and minds of people in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as overseas Chinese,” Xi said.

Hong Kong — the subject of a crackdown by Xi following massive pro-democracy protests in the city three years ago — operates as a semi-autonomous entity under Beijing’s rule, much like Macau. Taiwan is a self-governed democracy that the Communist Party claims as its own territory and has said it strives for “reunification” despite never having ruled it.

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

The United Front’s operations, including leading the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office responsible for services targeting Chinese nationals living abroad, have attracted negative international attention in recent years amid growing concerns over China’s attempt to gain global reach. .

The ministry has also raised the suspicions of overseas governments amid allegations that it is trying to co-opt ethnic Chinese and other individuals, silencing dissent and conducting foreign influence operations — allegations Beijing has denied.

Meanwhile, the United Front’s domestic operations — long seen as a way to quell potential opposition to the Communist Party — are viewed negatively internationally in the face of crackdowns on certain religious and ethnic groups, which are also under the purview of the United Front. Front fall.

Stressing the importance of the United Front Work Department during his first term, Xi is looking to enter a third term this fall, an unprecedented move in recent decades and one that comes at a difficult time for China.

The country faces many challenges, from an economic slowdown at home to a significant decline in its global reputation, amid tensions with Western governments over China’s alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang, the crackdown on civil society in Hong Kong. Kong and threats against Taiwan.

This year also marks 100 years since the party rolled out its united front policy of alliance-building with non-Communist groups, which was cited by the country’s founder Mao Zedong as one of the “three magic weapons” that led to the victory in the Chinese Civil War, in addition to armed struggle and party activities.

“All (these) dynamics… basically confirm to them that this is a critical time for the Communist Party to exert its influence on the people in China who are not party members, as well as the key voters abroad who could potentially cause harm.” or help. China and the Communist Party,” said Drew Thompson, a visiting researcher at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

“This is a critical moment in China’s development, so all aspects of China’s state power are committed to preserving the party’s authority and contributing to the development and realization of the ‘China Dream,'” Thompson added, referring to Xi’s long-standing vision of a powerful China.

In his remarks, Xi called for a strengthening of the United Front in the ‘new era’.

He listed tasks including “promoting a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation” in its “ethnic affairs”, and developing religions “in the Chinese context” – which have been denounced by human rights defenders as part of China’s recent crackdown on religion and ethnic identity.

Xi also stressed the need to “unite all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation,” a phrase that analysts say points to the party’s vision of being connected to all ethnic Chinese, even those who are not Chinese citizens. Some ethnic Chinese have opposed that view, which has become especially controversial in light of allegations that some Western governments have unfairly targeted people of Chinese descent in their efforts to crack down on 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 US-China tensions have escalated over the island over a possible visit from the US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, this week to Taipei.

China has lashed out at the potential visit and has vowed to take “resolute and firm measures” if it goes ahead. Last week, China’s defense ministry reiterated the threat, warning: “If the US insists on setting its own course, the Chinese military will never stand idly by.”

But Xi’s nod to the United Front’s importance in Taiwan could indicate Beijing’s preference for “long-term peaceful approaches” when it comes to its purported goal of “reunification,” said Wen-Ti Sung, a political scientist at the United Nations. Taiwan Studies Program of the Australian National University.

“It shows in a very subtle way that despite all the heated rhetoric out there, (Beijing) needs to show some patience here,” Sung said.

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