There’s been a media war being waged by China and the U.S. since February as China seeks to control information in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
China expelled two Wall Street Journal reporters after the paper published an article that described China as “the sick man of Asia.” This enraged the Communists, who referred to it as a “smear.” One Beijing official told a press conference, China won’t be a nation of “silent lambs in the face of malicious insults and smearing.” This is after the administration had declared the Chinese press offices “foreign missions.”
The U.S. responded by limiting the number of Chinese reporters, forcing them to cut nearly half their staff. This led to China’s action today as they expelled all American reporters working for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
China also ordered that those newspapers, as well as the Voice of America and Time magazine, turn over detailed information about their staffing, finances, operations and real estate in China.
The Foreign Ministry said the action was in response to Washington’s recent decision to slash the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work for Chinese state-run media on US soil in retaliation for what it called Beijing’s “long-standing intimidation and harassment of journalists.”
The Chinese government accused the American government of — get this — “oppression.”
“The above-mentioned measures are entirely necessary and reciprocal countermeasures that China is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the US,” it said. “They are legitimate and justified self-defense in every sense.”
Author Markos Kounalakis claims China “uses its foreign news bureaus as fronts for editors and journalists to work as both witting and unwitting spies.” Rather than call out the Chinese “news” bureaus for their spying, the State Department chose to weaken their ability to gather intelligence.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo simply pointed out the obvious:
“I regret China’s decision today to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct the free press operations that, frankly, would be really good for the Chinese people in these incredibly challenging global times, where more information, more transparency are what will save lives.”
Allowing the free flow of information would be the death of the Communist state. Certainly, China’s hyper-sensitivity about its image has to do with the way the government demands the people view the state. Just yesterday, the Chinese government criticized the president for his use of the term “Chinese virus,” which they said was “racist” — criticism that was obediently echoed by the American media.
For the Americans reporting from a totalitarian country, being expelled is an occupational hazard. Some might say they’re not doing their jobs if they aren’t always on the verge of being kicked out. But this is a spat between nations and as China keeps upping the ante, they only make it worse.