Inside China’s secret ‘magic weapon’ for worldwide influence

November 1, 2017 By James Kynge, Lucy Hornby and Jamil Anderlini, FINANCIAL TIMES

On the Google map of Beijing there is an empty quarter, an urban block next to the Communist party’s leadership compound in which few of the buildings are named. At street level, the aura of anonymity is confirmed. Uniformed guards stand by grand entrances checking official cars as they come and go. But there are no identifying signs; the sole information divulged is on brass plaques that bear the street name and building numbers.

The largest of these nameless compounds is 135 Fuyou Street, the offices of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist party, known as United Front for short. This is the headquarters of China’s push for global “soft power”, a multi-faceted but largely confidential mission that Xi Jinping, China’s president who on Wednesday was confirmed in place until at least 2022, has elevated into one of the paramount objectives of his administration.

The building, which stretches for some 200m at street level, signifies the scale of China’s ambition. Winning “hearts and minds” at home and abroad through United Front work is crucial to realising the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese people”, Mr Xi has said. Yet the type of power exercised by the cadres who work behind the neoclassical façade of 135 Fuyou Street is often anything but soft.[Source]

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