WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration said Monday that it is designating the U.S. operations of four Chinese media outlets as “foreign missions” in an action that could force some of their journalists to leave the country and further worsen diplomatic relations.
State Department officials said the four organizations are essentially mouthpieces for the Chinese Communist Party and the government and should not be treated like ordinary foreign media.
The four, which include state-run CCTV, will be required to submit a list of everyone who works for them in the U.S. and any real estate holdings. None are being ordered to leave at this time, but a similar action in February against five other outlets preceded a cap on the number of people who could work for those organizations in the U.S.
The other three are the China News Service, the People’s Daily newspaper and the Global Times.
“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 U.S. designated Soviet outlets as foreign missions during the Cold War. That precedent reflects the bitter state of relations between the United States and China, which are at odds over Beijing’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, trade, human rights and other issues.
U.S. officials say the 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 shouldn’t be treated like traditional news organizations.
“These aren’t journalists. These are members of the propaganda apparatus in the PRC,” Stillwell said in a conference call with reporters.
In February, the administration took the same action against 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 in March, the U.S. administration capped the number of journalists from the five allowed to work in the U.S. at 100, down from about 160. At the time, the U.S. cited China’s increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment and intimidation of American and other foreign journalists in China.
The administration also said it plans to set time limits on the visas issued to Chinese journalists, as China does now for journalists working for U.S. outlets.
It was not yet clear how many journalists work in the U.S. for the organizations designated Monday.
As of this spring, there were about 75 Americans and other foreigners authorized to work for U.S. news outlets inside China.