Countering United Front SU

Countering United Front Work: Taiwan's Political Warfare System

Mariah Thornton Profile photo


Mariah Thornton

LSE IDEAS Researcher

This strategic update introduces the challenges posed by China’s united front work, which has significantly expanded due to unprecedented institutional elevation and support under Xi Jinping. Mariah argues that Taiwan—a country that has effectively resisted China’s united front activities for several decades—can serve as an instructive case for other democratic countries in institutionalising counter-interference operations. The briefing initially explores the origins of Taiwan’s political warfare system, its evolution from the martial law era to democratisation in the 1990s, and how this history informs the institution’s modern structure and operations. The information presented in this report was compiled during a period of fieldwork in Taiwan from late September to early November 2022, in which she interviewed dozens of political warfare officers as well as Taiwanese defence and security experts–a majority of whom have chosen to remain anonymous. In the conclusion, Mariah offers broad policy recommendations based on these findings that may be applicable to other countries experiencing united front work activities and or seeking to institutionalise counter-interference operations. 

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Countering United Front Work: Taiwan’s Political Warfare System

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 Countering United Front Work: Taiwan’s Political Warfare System


About the author

Mariah Thornton is a MPhil/PhD student at the Department of International Relations and a researcher at LSE IDEAS. Her research focuses on China’s foreign policy and strategy toward Taiwan, cross-Strait relations, as well as Taiwan in digital IR. 

Before joining LSE, Mariah worked as a press and communications officer at the Taipei Representative Office for over two years under Taiwan’s then representative 

to the UK and former foreign minister David Lin. Mariah also worked in business development at an international education consultancy with a focus on China and East Asia. 

Mariah completed a BA in Chinese Studies at the University of Oxford (2011-2015) and an MSc in Chinese Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (2016-2017). Mariah was awarded the Huayu scholarship to study Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University (2015-2016) as well as the Fung scholarship to fund her Mandarin studies at Peking University (2012-2013).