The International Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP/ID) operates worldwide--but does so "quietly", as its activities and exchanges remain out of the media and scholarly spotlight. No ruling party or government in the world mounts anywhere near as extensive an effort to maintain links with domestic political parties, groups and personages, as does the CCP/ID. In recent years it has also played important roles in managing relations with North Korea, in assessing the causes and consequences of the collapse of the former Soviet Union and other communist party-states, and has also been a key conduit in relations with Asian, European and Latin America parties and NGOs.
The International Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP/ID) is one of the most important, but least well understood, organs of China's foreign affairs system (waishi xitong). It is a relatively large and quite active organisation, operates worldwide (and throughout China) and performs a variety of important functions for the CCP and government. Yet it is a difficult institution to research and learn about, and many things that one would like to know about the ID are simply not knowable. (1)
Over the past eight decades of the ID's existence, it has performed a mixture of positive and negative roles. On the negative side, it has sought to subvert foreign governments and has smuggled weapons to insurgent groups. It has been a missionary of revolution, a propaganda agent, an intelligence collector, and supporter of brutal regimes such as the Khmer Rouge. More positively and more recently, however, the ID has served as an alternative diplomatic channel and secret envoy in sensitive negotiations with North Korea (and possibly Iran), a vehicle to learn from abroad to aid China's modernisation, a conduit to introduce foreign officials and experts to China and as a means to build ties with foreign societies and political parties. Like many other aspects of Chinese diplomacy, the ID has morphed from a disruptive and revolutionary institution into one that promotes reform at home and the status quo abroad.
While the ID operates relatively quietly and its activities are not reported in foreign media or analysed by scholars of Chinese foreign policy, the CCP/ID is not a secret or covert organisation (although it is involved in intelligence collection). (2) It is one of the few Central Committee organs that maintains a public website (<http://www.idcpc.org.cn>) which is quite informative about the Department's structure and activities. The current CCP/ID director, Wang Jiarui, even claimed that there is an initiative underway to "further enhance the transparency of Party diplomacy". (3) The ID now sports a shiny new 14-storey glass office building in a prominent location on West Chang'an Boulevard in central Beijing with "CPC International Department" emblazoned on a red neon sign on top of the building.
There are various reasons why the ID and its role in Chinese diplomacy are not well known outside of China (or inside China for that matter). First, the Foreign Ministry is viewed (appropriately) as...
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