Victim and Accomplice? The Role of Overseas Chinese in China’s Foreign Interference Activities in the Xi Jinping Era
Drawing upon previous diaspora studies’ findings and a wide range of primary data including government policy documents, archives, and news articles, this paper first provides an overview of the history and origins of overseas Chinese affairs (qiaowu) and the United Front Work Department. Secondly, it examines the changing demographics of the overseas Chinese (OC) population and its implications. Thirdly, it identifies the tactics that United Front Work uses to influence the overseas Chinese community and analyzes their implications through case studies on exposed Chinese interference operations in Australia and New Zealand. Lastly, it offers some potential ways to counter China’s interference activities. This paper argues that different generations of overseas Chinese have been targeted differently by the Chinese government, which underscores both an important evolution and in United Front Work and a more complicated picture of the CCP’s relations with the diaspora than is generally assumed. While the younger generation of overseas Chinese is often being targeted and mobilized to interfere with their host countries’ local politics, the active older generation is being silenced and suppressed.
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