Collage of four leading Chinese news organizations. - Photo: 2020

US Penalizes Chinese Media While Beijing Expels American Correspondents

By Shanta Roy

NEW YORK (IDN) – The Trump administration’s ongoing war of words with China – involving tariffs, naval supremacy in the South China sea, allegations of espionage and support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong – have been further escalated by a decision to designate five Chinese state-run media organizations as “foreign missions”.

The U.S. decision announced February 18, to single out the Chinese media-– while ignoring several other state-run news organizations, including Russia’s ITAR-TASS, Sputnik News Agency and Pravda, plus several government-sponsored Arab news agencies from Gulf nations – has undermined the credibility of the argument advanced by the Trump administration.

The Chinese news organizations declared as “foreign missions” include the Xinhua News Agency; China Global Television Network which falls under China Central Television, CCTV; China Radio International; China Daily Distribution Corporation; and Hai Tian Development USA, which is the distributor for the People’s Daily in the United States.

At a press briefing February 18, a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters: “We are making this designation based on the very indisputable fact that all five of these are subject to the control of the Chinese Government.”

Obviously, he said, the Chinese Communist Party has always had a pretty tight rein on media in general and state-run media in particular, but that has only further tightened since Xi Jinping took over.

Asked why other state-run media outlets have not been penalized for “offering propaganda for their regimes”, the official said: “The fact of the matter is each and every single one of these entities does, in fact, work 100 percent for the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.”

Reese Erlich, who writes the nationally-distributed Foreign Correspondent column and has been monitoring the developing story, told IDN this latest effort is part of Trump’s new cold war attacks on foreign media and media critical of his rule.

This latest attack on Chinese media is just one more step, he added.

“It is rather hypocritical to attack critical media inside United States while supposedly supporting free media everywhere else”, said Erlich, a reporter for over 45 years, and who has won numerous awards, including a Peabody.

Meanwhile, clarifying the new designations, a second senior State Department official told reporters although “we have designated them as foreign missions, that does not mean they are embassies or consulates or have traditional diplomatic privileges or immunities. What we are doing is imposing two requirements on these entities”.

The first is that they will – and are required to notify the Office of Foreign Missions within the State Department of their current personnel in the United States, basic information about those individuals, and then as – if there’s any changes to those employment situations, he pointed out.

“So, if anyone departs or new people come on, they would notify us, just like the standard requirement for an embassy or consulate.

“The second is that they would need to notify us of their current real property holdings, whether they are owned or leased; and in connection with that, prior to acquiring, whether by purchase or lease any new real property, they would need to obtain prior approval from my office”, he noted.

Those are the only two requirements that are in place, and all of that was notified to each of these entities, he added.

Meanwhile, on February 19, the Chinese government decided to expel three foreign correspondents for the Wall Street Journal who were based in China.

Condemning the expulsion, Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State said mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions.

The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech, he added.

The United States hopes that the Chinese people will enjoy the same access to accurate information and freedom of speech that Americans enjoy, Pompeo added.

China’s decision to expel the reporters was prompted by an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) which was titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”

The expulsions were described as the first since 1998, according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in China.

The Chinese described the headline as “racist” and sought an apology from the New York based newspaper.

But the newspaper refused – even though more than 50 journalists at the WSJ wrote a letter of protest to management describing the headline as “derogatory” and urging the editors to “consider correcting the headline and apologizing to our readers, sources, colleagues and anyone else who was offended by it”. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 March 2020]

Collage of four leading Chinese news organizations.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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