US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States was designating the US operations of six more China-based media companies as foreign missions, a move he said was aimed at pushing back against communist propaganda.
Pompeo also told a State Department news conference that the US would launch a dialogue on China with the European Union on Friday and that on Sunday he would begin a trip to India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia.
He said he expected the meetings would include discussions about how “free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party”.
The State Department named the newly designated publications as the Yicai Global, Jiefang Daily, the Xinmin Evening News, Social Sciences in China Press, the Beijing Review, and the Economic Daily. This means 15 Chinese media outlets have now been classified as foreign missions by US authorities.
The designation requires the outlets to inform the State Department of their personnel rosters and property holdings.
The move is the latest US step to curb Chinese activity in the United States in the run-up to the November 3 presidential election, in which President Donald Trump has made a tough approach to China a key theme of his campaign for a second term.
Pompeo said the decision was part of efforts to push back against “Chinese communist propaganda efforts” in the US.
“They are also substantially owned, or effectively controlled by a foreign government,” he said.
“We are not placing any restrictions on what these outlets can publish in the United States; we simply want to ensure that American people, consumers of information can differentiate between news written by a free press and propaganda distributed by the Chinese Communist Party itself. Not the same thing.”
China’s embassy did not comment immediately.
The editor-in-chief of the state-backed Global Times newspaper said in a tweet that the US had “gone too far” and that China would retaliate.
“As long as Chinese media outlets suffer actual harm, Beijing will definitely retaliate, and US media outlets’ operation in HK could be included in retaliation list,” Hu Xijin said.
The US has gone too far. The move will further poison working environment of media outlets in each other’s country. As long as Chinese media outlets suffer actual harm, Beijing will definitely retaliate, and US media outlets’ operation in HK could be included in retaliation list. pic.twitter.com/xTSDyRHpx6
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) October 21, 2020
As Trump, Pompeo and other officials have ramped up criticism of China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the US government has also steadily increased pressure on Beijing’s interests in the US.
As well as the restrictions on state media, they have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, companies and government agencies for their actions in Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
Since the beginning of the year, the Trump administration has closed China’s consulate in Houston, indicted several Chinese citizens on espionage charges, imposed strict limits on the travel of Chinese diplomats, restricted the number of Chinese journalists allowed in the US and issued stern warnings to US academic and scientific institutions over the alleged influence of the Confucius Institutes that promote educational and cultural links.
The Confucius Institutes have also been required to register as official missions of a foreign government.
So far this year, the US has designated 15 Chinese media outlets as foreign missions. Before Wednesday, those included the Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network (CGTN), China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corporation, Hai Tian Development USA, China Central Television, China News Service, the People’s Daily, and the Global Times newspaper.
In response, China expelled about a dozen US newspaper correspondents with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
Some media rights advocates, while accepting that Chinese outlets are beholden to the state, have voiced unease about the US measures, saying that they give Beijing a pretext to expel journalists who have done valuable investigative work on human rights and the origins of COVID-19.