U.S. to register Chinese journalists as foreign agents?

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China's Vice-Premier Li Keqiang attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 28, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an advisory body to the U.S. Congress, submitted its annual report on November 15. It provides an extremely detailed look at a huge range of trade and national security issues in U.S.-China relations, but Reuters explains one of the report’s key takeaways:

  • The Commission accused Chinese state media of spying in the U.S. Specifically, it says that Xinhua News Agency “serves some of the functions of an intelligence agency, gathering information and producing classified reports for the Chinese leadership on both domestic and international events.”
  • This claim has been in the Commission’s annual report since at least 2009, when it cited a book by Anne-Marie Brady and The Tiananmen Papers as evidence. In the 2017 report, the Commission also cited two reports from the Epoch Times, based on conversations with a former Chinese diplomat and with a Canadian journalist.
  • The Commission wants journalists at Xinhua and People’s Daily to register as foreign agents under the U.S. government’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This follows written testimony to the Commission in May 2017, in which a representative from the American-funded NGO Freedom House said that “there appear to be loopholes in enforcement or definitions” for FARA, as China Daily and its top journalists were already registered, but Xinhua and People’s Daily were somehow not.