|Sun Chunlan meets Gyaltsen Norbu|
Interestingly the other lady member of the Politburo, Madam Liu Yandong served also in the United Front. From 1991 to 1998, Liu was deputy head of the organization; in 1998, she was promoted to a ministerial level post while serving in the same office.
Liu headed the United Front Work Department from 2002 to 2005.
Let us remember that the United Front Work Department manages the relations with the non-Communist Party groups, including individuals and organizations holding social, commercial, or academic influence and the ‘minorities’ such as the Tibetans, the Uyghurs as well as the relations with Taiwan.
As for Sun, from 2009 to 2014, she served as Communist Party Secretary of Fujian province, then Party Secretary of Tianjin. Her tenure in Fujian made her the second female provincial-level party chief since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
It is after the 18th Party Congress, in November 2012, that Sun became the party chief of Tianjin municipality, China's richest provincial-level jurisdiction; she occupied the post vacated by Zhang Gaoli, who became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee. As Tianjin Party Secretary, Sun automatically became a member of the Politburo.
After the sacking of Ling Jihua, (see earlier postings on Ling) as head of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, Sun took over on December 31, 2014. Incidentally, Ling Jihua was not a member of the Politburo, therefore Sun’s appointment can be seen as a promotion for the post.
Yesterday, Xinhua reported that “Sun Chunlan, head of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee met with the 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, [Gyatsen Norbu] in Beijing, China on February 12, 2015.”
It is a significant encounter which shows that Beijing has decided to fully play the Chinese designated Panchen Lama.