The Rectification of Names and the Party United Front Work Department Takeover of Religious Affairs and Overseas Chinese Affairs

The March 4, 2018 the Chinese Party Central Committee “Decision on the Deepening of Reform in Party and State Organizations” [中共中央关于深化党和国家机构改革的决定] includes among many other abolition of state organizations and the assumption of their responsibilities by Party organizations, the assumption of integrated leadership of the Chinese Communist Party United Front Work Department over the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.

In the case of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, the commission will remain a State Council organization albeit led by its Party counterpart.

The other two however, the the State Administration for Religious Affairs and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, will be bodily assumed into the United Front Work Department, retaining merely the names of the former State Council institutions only for the purpose of contacts with foreigners.





The Decision states that this change was brought on by Xi Jinping’s updating for the new era of Deng Xiaoping Theory.

I suppose the name plates of the State Council organizations are retained so as not to confuse foreigners who might otherwise wonder if they are talking with an official representative of China.

The question arises then when foreigners refer to these organizations, shouldn’t they be called organizations of the Chinese Communist Party United Front Work Department?

Wouldn’t Confucius’ principle of the Rectification of Names 正名 demand that of us as we try to properly understand the Party-State of China?

Just what all this means I am not sure since Party leadership – the people’s democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party – has been bedrock since the Party founded New China in 1949.

Perhaps it is just part of the normal changes in leadership in a Party General Secretary second term since only then can the top leader install their preferred people. At the start of the first term, the new leader has to work mostly with the leaders put in place by the previous leadership. 

Wouldn’t regulations promulgated by a government bureau disappear (having now no regulatory agency) when the agency is bodily assumed (raptured?) into a Party organization.  A colleague mentioned that 对外 towards the outside has a more general meaning of those outside the organization rather than just foreigners as I understood it. Maybe it means “those foreign to the organization”!

 I await further guidance from the Party on this matter.

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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