What does a powerful Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China mean for the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) various minority nationalities, especially the Tibetans? The nature and extent of authority accorded to the United Front Works Department (UFWD) that handles nationality, religious and overseas Chinese affairs, during Xi’s second term is an important starting point for analysis.
The UFWD organized a press conference on 21 October 2017 on the sidelines of the 19th Party Congress, in which its leadership saw the organization as an important player in Xi’s new formulation of ‘new era’. For instance, the various conferences held under its aegis in the past five years – such as the Second Central Xinjiang Work Conference (May 2014), Central Nationalities Work Conference (September 2014), 6th Tibet Work Forum (August 2015), National Religious Work Conference (April 2016) – are retroactively characterised as work convened ‘under the guidance of the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics’. Indeed, at the national religious work conference that was held from 22-23 April 2016, Xi called upon the UFWD to take the lead in coordinating responsibilities with various organisations. In his report to the 19th Party Congress, he likens United Front work to a ‘magic weapon’ that will ‘ensure the success of the party’.
Hence, it is not surprising that on taking up the mantle of General Secretary of the CPC and President of the People’s Republic of China in 2012 and 2013 respectively, Xi turned his attention to the UFWD. A UFWD website report informs that the highest level of CPC leadership, that is the PBSC, initiated an effort to draft regulations for United Front work, encompassing delineation of its ‘principles, frameworks, priorities and progress’. The regulation finally came into effect on 18 May 2015 and is touted as being historic, marking the entry of united front work into a ‘new stage’.[Source]