The next step in the soft war between USA and China has officially been instated. In a controversial move, the United States said it would slash the number of Chinese nationals permitted to work at the US offices of major Chinese state-owned media outlets. This is in response to what Washington said was Beijing’s “long-standing intimidation and harassment of journalists”.
Administration officials have highlighted the worsening crackdown on free speech and independent journalism in China as a reason for their actions. In fact, they are pointing out that these attacks have gotten dangerous with time. A comparison with the heyday of the Soviet Union has also been made.
Beginning March 13, USA will cap the number of US-based Chinese nationals allowed to work at the prominent Sino media houses. These include the Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International and China Daily Distribution Corp. The specified number will be brought down to 100 from the current number of 160.
HOW DID CHINA RESPOND TO USA’S MOVE?
The Chinese response has also been recorded. Beijing’s UN ambassador said the move was not “appropriate”. The country’s Foreign Ministry said that the US decision had caused a serious negative impact on the two countries’ relations and that it reserved the right to take measures in response.
However, the Chinese crackdown on American media will be nothing novel. Last month, Beijing had a stand-off with acclaimed American newspaper The Wall Street Journal. Three of their reporters saw their visas being revoked as they refused to apologise for their reportage. They had called China “Real Sick Man of Asia”. In fact, another reporter with the newspaper had to leave the paper as China refused to renew his visa.
American officials claim that their actions will have no effect on the stay of these Chinese journalists in the USA. However, the effects of this decision on the ground can be pretty contrary to their expectations. This is because many professionals reside in the USA contingent on their regular jobs. The moment their jobs go away, their visas will cease to hold any importance.
However, the right to decide the staff cuts has been kept with the individual media organizations.
“For years, the government of the People’s Republic of China has imposed increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment, and intimidation against American and other foreign journalists operating in China,” Mike Pompeo said in a statement. Mike Pompeo is the US Secretary of State.
It will be interesting to see the intensity of the measure adopted by China and how the rivalry shapes up in the future.