Sleight of Hand: Understanding the True Intentions of the CCP's United Front Operations

Date
2021
Authors
Gordy, Kyle A.
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Abstract

After decades of unipolarity, the U.S. now finds itself in the midst of a new era of great power competition, and the People's Republic of China (PRC) represents a significant threat not only to U.S. global supremacy but the U.S.-led international order as a whole. This round of inter-state competition for hegemonic supremacy is different, however; the nuclear revolution, technological advances, and enhancements in conventional military weaponry have elevated the costs of conventional warfare between great powers. As a result, the PRC has adopted a new strategy to achieve its interest and overtake the U.S. without firing a single shot: offensive political warfare (OPW). While a comprehensive examination of China's OPW strategy would be a critical addition to the contemporary OPW literature, the scope of OPW is too broad for such an examination to be conducted in this forum. Thus, this thesis focuses on an often overlooked and critical piece of the Chinese political warfare puzzle: the United Front. Through the use of two comparative case studies, this thesis demonstrates how the PRC is effectively utilizing its United Front approach to win foreign support and delegitimize the United States. In doing so, this thesis reveals that the United Front is particularly effective in the short-term, but less effective in the long-term as countries become more aware of the PRC's tactics and intent, particularly in Western nations that are not economically over-dependent on the PRC.

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Keywords
China, Political Warfare, PRC, United Front
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Department
Political Science and Geography