Foreign Interference – China’s Use of the United Front Work Department
Date: June 9, 2020
On June 9, 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published an analysis of the CCP's use of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) as a primary foreign interference tool. The Toronto Star also published an article which outlines related issues for Canada.
- Protecting Canada’s institutions and democratic processes is an integral part of Canada’s values and remains an important priority for the Government of Canada. Any report of foreign interference activities targeting Canada or Canadians is troubling and not tolerated. Allegations of such acts by foreign agents are taken very seriously.
- The Government is aware that foreign states may conduct themselves in Canada in a manner that is inconsistent with our values. The latest Public Report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service states that foreign interference and espionage directly threaten Canada’s national security and strategic interests. This is not new and not limited to one country.
- There is no more fundamental role for the Government than to keep Canadians and our communities safe. Canadians can be assured that their Government will continue to work to counter the threat posed by foreign interference activities.
- The security and intelligence community acts to counter foreign interference through their respective authorities. For example, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service conducts investigations under the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police can also investigate with a view to laying charges under the Criminal Code.
On June 9, 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published an analysis of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) use of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) as a primary foreign interference tool. The Toronto Star also published an article outlining related issues for Canada.
The ASPI report states that China is making fresh efforts to influence Chinese communities around the world to advance Beijing’s interests, requiring heightened vigilance from democratic countries. Beijing uses the UFWD to stifle criticism, infiltrate foreign political parties, diaspora communities, universities and multinational corporations. The UFWD’s importance to the Chinese Communist Party has grown in recent years under President Xi, as 40,000 new staff have been added.
The report does not specifically cite Canada's experience, however, the author Alex Joske told The Star that Canadian attendees are numerous at UWFD conferences and events. By using techniques such as political donations, offering paid trips to China, using flattery, and co-opting international politicians. In the Toronto Star article, the report's author recommended that Canada carry out detailed studies of UFWD work across the country as well as in specific sectors, and communicate findings to the public to promote general understanding.
Other reports have highlighted the threat of foreign interference in Canada. For example, the 2019 CSIS Public Report, released on May 20, 2020, states that espionage and foreign-influenced activities are almost always conducted to further the interests of a foreign state, using both state and non-state entities. Espionage and foreign-influenced activities are directed at Canadian entities both inside and outside of Canada, and directly threaten Canada’s national security and strategic interests. Democratic institutions and processes around the world—including elections—are vulnerable and have become targets for international actors. Foreign threat actors—most notably
hostile states and state-sponsored actors—are targeting Canada’s democratic institutions and processes. Further, the Annual Report of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) outlined foreign interference activities, including the targeting of Canadian institutions by threat actors. The NSICOP report pointed to China and Russia as being particularly active in Canada and made a number of recommendations for Canada to bolster its response to the threat of foreign interference.
Over the years, CSIS has seen multiple instances of foreign states targeting specific Canadian institutions. The scope of potential foreign interference activities can be broad, encompassing a range of techniques that are familiar to intelligence agencies. These include: human intelligence operations, the use of state-sponsored or foreign influenced media, and the use of sophisticated cyber tools.
The Government of Canada’s security and intelligence community is combatting these threats within their respective mandates. For example, CSIS has longstanding investigations into foreign interference threat activities targeting democratic processes and institutions across Canada. The provision of CSIS intelligence and assessments to senior levels of government allows for informed decision making when responding to and developing policies to address these threats. Likewise, the RCMP has a broad, multi-faceted mandate that allows it to investigate, and prevent foreign interference drawing upon various legislative authorities.
Prepared by: NSOD
Approved by: Dominic Rochon, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, 613-990-4976 (pending)
- Date modified: