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US considers five China state run media entities as “foreign missions” and must register with the State Department

Thursday, February 20th 2020 - 07:53 UTC
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Xinhua, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily, and People’s Daily will be designated as “foreign missions” Xinhua, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily, and People’s Daily will be designated as “foreign missions”
China has been tightening state control over its media and President Xi Jinping has made more aggressive use of them to spread pro-Beijing propaganda. China has been tightening state control over its media and President Xi Jinping has made more aggressive use of them to spread pro-Beijing propaganda.
“This action is long overdue. For years, these so-called media outlets have been mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Mike Pompeo “This action is long overdue. For years, these so-called media outlets have been mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Mike Pompeo

The United States will begin treating five major Chinese state-run media entities with U.S. operations as “foreign missions” and operatives of Beijing’s government, requiring them to register their employees and U.S. properties with the State Department.

State Department officials said that in accordance with the Foreign Missions Act, Xinhua, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily, and People’s Daily will be designated as “foreign missions,” effective immediately.

The designation was based “… on the very indisputable fact that all five of these are subject to the control of the Chinese Government,” one official said, adding that China has been tightening state control over its media and President Xi Jinping has made more aggressive use of them to spread pro-Beijing propaganda.

“The control over both the content and editorial control have only strengthened during Xi Jinping’s term in power,” the official said. “These guys are, in fact, arms of the CCP’s (Chinese Community Party’s) propaganda apparatus.”

The shift in the entities’ designation will require the U.S. operations of the companies to notify the State Department of personnel changes, to seek advanced approval from the U.S. government to purchase or lease office space in the United States, just as foreign diplomatic missions do.

The official said the entities were notified of the further requirements on Tuesday and that the disclosures would help the State Department better understand how the entities operate in the United States.

A second State Department official said that Beijing’s control of China’s state-owned media has become “more and more draconian.” In contrast, he said the department had long considered the decision, describing the media companies as “organs of the Chinese one-party state propaganda apparatus.”

China Daily is an English-language newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party. Hai Tian Development USA distributes the People’s Daily, the official publication of the party’s Central Committee.

Tensions between the United States and China have escalated since President Donald Trump came to office three years ago, with disputes ranging from trade tariffs to accusations of Chinese spying in the United States and U.S. support for Taiwan.

Tuesday’s decision, the officials said, is not linked to any recent developments in Sino–U.S. relations.

A department official said designating the entities as “foreign missions” was intended to create more “transparency” as the State Department will have more information about their employees and their holdings.

“We are serving a certain purpose by making clear that these guys are part and parcel of the PRC Government. These are not independent journalistic outlets,” the official said.

Responding to the decision, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the action is “long overdue.”

“We are determined to treat China as it is, not as what we want it to be. In China, all media works for the Chinese Communist Party, as General Secretary Xi Jinping has explicitly stated,” Pompeo said. “Since these organizations work for the CCP, it is only fitting that we treat them as foreign missions, meaning they are subject to State Department regulation.”

“This action is long overdue. For years, these so-called media outlets have been mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party, and these Chinese outlets are becoming more aggressive.”

Xinhua, which is China's main news agency and serves as a channel for most major announcements, maintains bureaus around the world, with its largest in Washington and New York. It is common practice for many of them to produce internal documents, intended for consumption not by the public but by high-ranking officials.

Some disagreed with the action. “I don't see any evidence that they are doing anything nefarious that would warrant this response,” said Maria Repnikova, an assistant professor at Georgia State University and the author of “Media Politics in China: Improvising Power Under Authoritarianism”.

China Daily, the English-language version of one of the main state newspapers, regularly publishes advertising supplements in newspapers around the country, including The New York Times. They generally offer an informative, if anodyne, view of world affairs refracted through the lens of the Communist Party.

“The China Daily advertisement insert is clearly labeled and meets our advertising acceptability standards,” said Ari Isaacman Bevacqua, a Times spokeswoman. “The New York Times covers China thoroughly and aggressively, and at no time has advertising influenced our coverage.”

However, some experts on China say China Daily pushes insidious propaganda onto foreign readers, especially in its attempts to whitewash vast human rights abuses against Uighurs, Tibetans and other ethnic minorities.

Sophie Richardson, the China director for Human Rights Watch, has repeatedly denounced China Daily. The paper, she said on Twitter last year, was “nothing more than a mouthpiece for a government that conflates peaceful criticism with terrorism, crushes peaceful protests, and arbitrarily detains shocking numbers of #Uyghurs and other #Muslims”.

One issue in particular drew the attention of the White House in 2018. An advertisement placed in The Des Moines Register highlighted the benefits of free trade for Iowa's farmers at a time Trump was excoriating what he called China's unfair trade practices.

Trump, in typical fashion, responded on Twitter: “China is actually placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers, made to look like news. That's because we are beating them on Trade, opening markets, and the farmers will make a fortune when this is over!”

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