The Trump administration added four Chinese media outlets on Monday to a list of organisations that should be considered “foreign missions” because of their ties to the government and the Communist Party, a move that could force some to cut staff in the United States and is likely to further aggravate relations between the two countries.
State Department officials said the four organisations, including state-run CCTV, would be required to submit a list of everyone who works for them in the US and any real estate holdings just as they would if they were foreign embassies or consulates.
None are being ordered to leave the US, and no limits on their activities were announced. But five other Chinese organisations were directed to cap the number of people who could work in the US in March – a month after they were designated as foreign missions.
State Department officials said the organisations are essentially mouthpieces for the Communist Party and Chinese government, not legitimate news outlets.
“The Communist Party does not just exercise operational control over these propaganda entities but has full editorial control over their content,” said Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell. “This foreign mission designation is an obvious step in increasing transparency of these and other PRC government propaganda activities in the United States.”
The other three added to the list of foreign missions are the China News Service, the People’s Daily newspaper and the Global Times.
It was not yet clear how many journalists work in the US for the organisations designated Monday.
The US designated Soviet outlets as foreign missions during the Cold War. That precedent reflects the bitter state of relations between the US and China, which are at odds over the origin and response to the coronavirus, trade, human rights and other issues.
As one of the last 10 counties in NW China’s #Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to have not been lifted out of #poverty, Shache County is accelerating its steps to shake off poverty by planting marigold. pic.twitter.com/7Vdi5K02rr
— People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) June 22, 2020
US officials say the designated media outlets should be considered foreign missions under American law because they are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by the government of the People’s Republic of China and should not be treated like traditional news organisations.
“These aren’t journalists. These are members of the propaganda apparatus in the PRC,” Stilwell said in a conference call with reporters.
Asked about potential Chinese retaliation, Stilwell noted that American journalists working in China already faced tight restrictions on their activities.
China had no immediate reaction to the announcement, but the foreign ministry accused the administration of harbouring a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice” when it applied the same designation to five media organisations earlier this year.
At that time, the administration applied the label to the Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, the China Daily Distribution Corporation, which distributes the newspaper of the same name, and Hai Tian Development USA, which distributes the People’s Daily newspaper.
Then the US administration capped the number of journalists from the five allowed to work in the US at 100, down from about 160. At the time, the US cited China’s increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment and intimidation of American and other foreign journalists in China.
China announced in response that it would revoke the media credentials of all American journalists at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.