The United States is tightening the screws on China with a slew of decisions. Firstly, President Trump crushed the Chinese tech industry with his decision to ban all non-US chip (semiconductor) manufacturing companies that design semiconductors on secretive American models, to sell this equipment to Huawei. Then the US Senate passed a bipartisan Bill which can result in the delisting of 800 Chinese companies, which shattered China’s dream of technology domination.
And now, President Donald Trump is targeting the Chinese State-run media. CNN has reported that the State Department is asking all US-based employees of the Chinese State media outlet- China Global Television Network (CGTN) to fill out detailed questionnaires with personal information.
The detailed questionnaire, a five-page form titled, “State Department OFM (Office of Foreign Missions) Questionnaire”, asks for employees’ personal information including information about their spouses, children and anyone else living with them.
It also seeks details of where the employee has worked in the past five years and all CGTN employees, including US citizens, are required to fill and submit this questionnaire by Monday.
This decision follows the Trump administration’s move in February to designate China’s State media as operatives of the Communist State of China. The US State Department had told Beijing that five of its official media agencies- Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and The People’s Daily will be subject to the same rules as Chinese diplomats.
The US had made it clear that the officials of the Chinese State media working in the United States would no longer be treated as journalists, rather they would be treated as foreign government functionaries. This, by necessary implication, meant that Chinese State media officials would be subjected to the same rules as diplomats of other countries stationed in the United States.
The US State Department officials had said that the designation required the Chinese State media organisations to furnish the names, personal details, and turnover of staff stationed in the country to the State Department.
Days later, Trump administration also slashed by half, the number of Chinese nationals who could work for the State-owned media in the USA. “Today, we announced a personnel cap on Chinese government-controlled media organizations in the United States,” said Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State.
Ever since US-China relations went downhill due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, there have been pitched battles between the two countries, regarding their media outlets and journalists.
In March, China expelled journalists from three leading dailies- the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. At least 13 reporters were affected by Beijing’s retaliatory move, and they were barred from working even in the Semi-autonomous regions of Macau and Hong Kong where journalists enjoy relatively greater freedom compared to other parts of the Communist country that doesn’t really respect the concept of free speech.
Beijing threatened to bar American reporters from Hong Kong, a decision that has not gone down well with the United States. Pompeo even warned Beijing that any decision impinging on Hong Kong’s autonomy could lead to the United States changing the assessment of Hong Kong’s status.
The tussle between the United States and China escalated further when the Trump administration altered visa regulations for Chinese journalists. The United States curtailed the visa duration for Chinese reporters to 90 days earlier this month. China has threatened retaliation if Washington doesn’t roll back its decision.
China’s tit-for-tat measures against the Pentagon’s decision to designate Chinese State media outlets as State operatives, are without rhyme and reason. The fact remains that Chinese media outlets are CCP’s mouthpieces and barely qualify as media outlets.
During the ongoing Pandemic, the journalists working for these media outlets across the world have been acting like China’s embassy spokesperson as a part of Beijing’s ‘propaganda war’.
Last month, a reporter from the Hong Kong-based Chinese media company, Phoenix TV, which is sympathetic towards Beijing and shares close ties with the CCP, tried to project China as the saviour of the world in line with Beijing’s “propaganda war”. When Trump asked who the reporter worked for, she said that she worked for Phoenix TV stressing that it was based in Hong Kong and lied that it was a private-owned company when it is partially state-owned. What she failed to tell Trump was that the founder and CEO of the company is a former member of China’s People’s Liberation Army.
It is clear that the United States President wants to take none of these lies. He is calling a spade a spade by treating the Chinese State-run media reporters as Beijing’s diplomats, instead of engaging with them like journalists.
Asking the CGTN employees masquerading as journalists is the first step in this direction, as a State Department spokesperson told CNN that the information sought from CGTN employees is the same as that required from foreign missions, such as embassies and consulates.
Donald Trump is thus treating the Chinese State media as a part of the Chinese embassy. The United States wants no links with China- it has already shattered the Chinese tech ambitions and now it is devastating the Chinese State-run media.