Sun Chunlan 孙春兰

Head of United Front Work Department


Nominally responsible for day-to-day Tibet policy. A potential interlocutor for Tibetan exile leaders.

Sun Chunlan


Pronunciation: Sun Choon-lun
Born: 1950, Hebei Province.
Education: Holds a degree in mechanics from Anshan Industrial Technology Academy in Liaoning.
Career: Early career in manufacturing in Liaoning Province. Held Party Secretary roles in Fujian Province and Tianjin municipality. Regarded as a protégé of Hu Jintao.
Prospects: One of only 2 women Politburo Members. Talked of as “one to watch” for a possible Standing Committee role in 2017. Implications of her move to UFWD are uncertain; it could be considered a demotion.
Relevance to Tibet: Responsible for day-to-day Tibet policy. A potential interlocutor for Tibetan exile leaders.

Standing in the Party and Career Highlights:

The Brookings Institute writes that “Sun Chunlan comes from a humble family, and her father was a worker. Sun is widely considered a protégé of Hu Jintao, but it is unclear where and when Sun established her client relationship with Hu. Their political connection likely occurred or was consolidated during her study at the Central Party School in the early 1990s, when Hu served as president of the school.”

According to Wikipedia Sun held positions in the Provincial Women’s Federation. She held many positions in the All China Federation of Trade Unions, rising to Secretary from 2005 – 2009. She was Party Secretary of Fujian Province 2009 – 2012 and Party Secretary of Tianjin Province from 2012 to 2014.

Sun is one of only two women Members of the 18th Politburo, the other being Liu Yandong). Brookings describes Sun as having an understated personality but capable of “political nerve”, for example in removing protégés of Bo Xilai from Dalian (when Mayor 2001 – 2005), well before Bo’s downfall.

In 2013 and 2014 Sun travelled fairly extensively in Europe and South East Asia. She was named as head of the United Front Work department on 31 December 2014, following the removal of disgraced fellow Hu Jintao protégé Ling Jihua.

In terms of Sun Chunlan’s future career, Willy Lam, writing in 2012 when Sun was transferred to Tianjin, was quoted in the Independent as saying “Sun Chunlan’s promotion was a reward for her loyalty to the centre and her political correctness… in five years she will definitely be the most senior woman politician,”…. “But I don’t think she has what it takes to go one step further into the Politburo Standing Committee. I don’t think the Chinese Communist Party is serious about promoting women. The old boys’ network is all-important. And most party leaders still harbour staunchly patriarchal views,”.

However, since Sun’s appointment to the United Front Work Department, Professor Bo Zhiyue, writing in The Diplomat, has hypothesised that this could mean she is being groomed as a possible replacement for Yu Zhengsheng (who is due to retire in 2017), as Chair of the Chinese National People’s Political Consultative Conference, and therefore the Standing Committee could still be in her sights.

The CCP placed significant emphasis on United Front Work and Tibet in 2015. Xi Jinping presided over a United Front Conference in May, and at the end of July the Politburo announced the decision to create a Leading Group on United Front Work. The Sixth Work Forum on Tibet was held from 24 – 25 August 2015, prioritising stability and the “struggle against separatism” above economic development. Read ICT’s report, Major Policy Meeting on Tibet in Build Up to Sensitive Anniversary, 28 August 2015.

Sun Chunlan travelled on a number of occasions to “make inspections” of Tibetan areas prior to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ (September 2015). She visited Lhasa and Shigatse from 15 – 18 June 2015 and the prefectures of Mahlo (Chinese: Huangnan in Qinghai Province), Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan, in Gansu Province) and Ngaba (Chinese: Aba, in Sichuan Province) from 9 – 12 July 2015. Sun naturally attended the 50th anniversary events themselves.

Sun Chunlan’s Contact Information:

  • Address: 35 Fuyou Street Xicheng District, Beijing 100800.
  • Website:
  • Phone:not available
  • Fax:not available

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