The Trump administration is ordering five Chinese-state owned media companies to cut its workforce in the United States by 40 percent, according to a statement released on Monday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Beginning Monday, the U.S. government will implement a personnel cap on Chinese-controlled media entities in the United States as a response to the Communist Party’s expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters last month, Bloomberg reported. The new policy will force the five outlets to reduce its personnel to 100, down from 160. Although the 60 employees won’t be expelled from the United States, Bloomberg reports that they “will almost certainly” have to leave the country.
The five outlets affected are Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corp. and Hai Tian Development USA, which is included under the cap, but won’t have to cut its staff since it only has two on its payroll.
According to the statement, the decision to implement the cap was not a response to any content the outlets have produced and will not restrict what the entities may publish, but instead, the “goal is reciprocity.”
“As we have done in other areas of the U.S.-China relationship, we seek to establish a long-overdue level playing field. It is our hope that this action will spur Beijing to adopt a more fair and reciprocal approach to U.S. and other foreign press in China,” Pompeo wrote. “We urge the Chinese government to immediately uphold its international commitments to respect freedom of expression, including for members of the press.”
The five entities in the United States have been designated by the State Department on Feb. 18 as “foreign missions of the People’s Republic of China,” according to the press release.
“The cap applies to the five Chinese state media entities operating in the United States that have been designated as foreign missions, which recognizes that they are effectively controlled by the PRC government. Unlike foreign media organizations in China, these entities are not independent news organizations,” the announcement added.
“The U.S. government has long welcomed foreign journalists, including PRC journalists, to work freely and without threat of reprisal,” the statement reads.
Last month, the Chinese government expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters, two Americans and one Australian, for refusing to apologize for a “racially discriminatory” headline in an op-ed. The op-ed described China as the “real sick man of Asia.”
According to U.S. officials, the reporters were also expelled for their coverage of the Chinese government’s detainment of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province.
“Regrettably, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but parrying and dodging its responsibility,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. “The Chinese people do not welcome those media that speak racially discriminatory language and maliciously slander and attack China.”
William Lewis, the Wall Street Journal’s publisher and chief executive of its parent company, Dow Jones, defended its reporters, saying the piece was “published independently from the WSJ newsroom and none of the journalists being expelled had any involvement with it.”
“Our opinion pages regularly publish articles with opinions that people disagree—or agree—with and it was not our intention to cause offense with the headline on the piece,” Lewis said. “However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret.”