The U.S. designated five Chinese media companies as “foreign missions,” a decision that reflects the Trump administration’s view that the communist party of Xi Jinping is imposing increasingly draconian government-control over news services, senior State Department officials said.
The State Department’s foreign mission designation includes Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corp. and Hai Tian Development USA, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday. The designation requires the outlets to adhere to requirements similar to those imposed on embassies and consulates in the U.S., including registering their current properties and getting prior approval for any acquisitions of new ones, the officials said.
The U.S. has stepped up its pressure on China’s government as it competes for economic and military influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned on Saturday that China is moving further outside the international order as the world’s second-largest economy pursues more aggressive economic and military policies at the expense of other nations.
Although Beijing and Washington have reached agreement on a “phase one” trade deal, the two sides have continued to feud over a broad range of issues including telecommunications policy. The U.S. last week charged Huawei Technologies Co. with racketeering to engage in intellectual property theft and recently charged members of China’s military over one of the biggest data thefts in American history.
The U.S. made the decision on the Chinese media outlets as it sees Xi stepping up his control of the country’s media in an effort to better control the government’s message and expands its overseas media operations, the officials said. The U.S. government doesn’t view these media outlets as independent, the officials said.
CGTN America, the U.S. division of China’s state-owned broadcaster, registered as a foreign agent in 2019 in response to a request from the Justice Department. Other U.S. partners of Chinese media entities, including the China Daily Distribution Corp. and Hai Tian Development U.S.A., Inc., both of which distribute newspapers, have been registered for decades.
Other international news organizations have also registered as foreign agents with the Justice Department, including T&R Productions LLC, a U.S. contractor for Russian state broadcaster RT, which registered in 2017. At the time, the U.S. Congress was investigating RT’s role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as possible influence by Sputnik, a state-run news agency.
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