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China: united front bureau to focus on overseas returnees

China has recently announced a new bureau to its United Front Work Department that will focus on ensuring students who have returned from overseas study align with party doctrine.

Zhongguancun, China's silicon valley. Returnee's are prized for their start-up initiatives but the new United Front Work Department wants to ensure they adhere to party ideology. Photo: The PIE News

The number of Chinese students who have returned home after study rose 12% in 2014 to 180,960,000

The United Front Work Department historically deals with non-party matters including religion and ethnic issues and affairs in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Announcing the “New Social Classes Work Bureau”, UFWD chair Sun Chunlan, recently said the initiative will target  professionals in private and foreign-owned enterprises, people working in NGOs including lawyers and accountants, new media professionals and returning students.

“The new social classes as highly mobile, scattered, active in thinking and diverse in ideas”

“New social classes are the new focus as well as an innovative aspect of united front work. They can be a highlight if the work is done well,” said Sun Chunlan in an article published on UFWD’s public WeChat account (tongzhanxinyu).

In the article, the department said the new bureau’s main tasks were to consult representatives from the new social class, gauge their thought to form new policies and to “guide the work of related social groups”.

The UFWD describes people in the new social classes as “highly mobile, scattered, active in thinking and diverse in ideas,” which results in them posing difficulties for united work, the article said.

According to the latest annual Blue Book report,  409,100, or around four in five, of students who studied abroad in the previous year had returned to China by the end of 2015.

Xi specifically mentioned returning overseas students who are part of new media

The announcement references calls from party president Xi Jinping at last year’s party conference on party officials to unite all “forces and positive factors” as extensively as possible.

According to the People’s Daily article, Xi specifically mentioned returning overseas students who are part of new media- noting the impact digital channels have on shaping public opinion–  and those working in the private sector, vital to Chinese economic growth.

A recent report by the National Development and Reform Commission, said a record number of students are returning to China to start their own businesses.

By 2014, there were 305 start up incubators designed especially for students who have studied abroad, a 25% increase from 2013. Twenty-thousand enterprises have been established in the incubators employing 63,000 employees.

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