11 July 2024

The US government has declared Chinese journalists working in the US as operatives of the Chinese state and not practitioners of journalism out of fears that they are allegedly involved in intelligence operation, the New York Times reported.


It said the State Department informed China on Tuesday that its five foremost news agencies –Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and The People’s Daily — will now officially be treated as foreign government functionaries, subject to the same rules as diplomats stationed in the United States.

NYT said the decision — debated in Washington for years but never carried out, in part because of concerns over restricting the freedom of the press — comes at a time when the administration has moved aggressively on multiple fronts to fight what officials describe as extensive Chinese influence and intelligence operations in the United States.


“China has long masked intelligence operations with journalistic credentials,” it quoted Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, as saying, echoing a suspicion held in national security circles.

“The danger is China could reciprocate against our journalists,” he said. “The difference is our journalists in China are actually journalists.”


It also quoted one administration official said the designation would not immediately interfere with the work of the organisations or their employees. It would, however, require China to register all of them with the State Department, as they now must do with diplomats in the Chinese Embassy in Washington or in consulates around the country.


The official said that news organisations were included because they were “substantially owned and effectively controlled” by China’s government.

In recent years, major Chinese media outlets, especially Xinhua news agency and CGTN (previously known as CCTV), have expanded their presence in many countries, including Thailand where they have signed cooperation agreements with several local media organisations.