The Trump administration is ordering four Chinese state-owned news outlets to cut their Chinese staff in the U.S. by about 40%, amid a broader response to Beijing’s restrictions on American journalists and the expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters last month.
Starting March 13, the four outlets will be allowed to employ a combined 100 Chinese citizens in the U.S., down from about 160 now, two State Department officials told reporters Monday on condition of anonymity. The officials insisted that the reductions weren’t expulsions, though the 60 or so employees will almost certainly have to leave the country.
The outlets affected by the move are Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International and China Daily Distribution Corp.
The restrictions stem from an effort by the Trump administration to restore what officials call reciprocity between the way China and the U.S. treat each other’s journalists. China currently allows about 100 Americans in the country and has severely restricted the number of visas it issues to foreign reporters.
The administration began mulling expulsions in earnest after China last month ordered the departure of the three Wall Street Journal reporters — two Americans and an Australian — after saying the outlet had refused to apologize for a “racially discriminatory” headline on an op-ed piece. U.S. officials have also said the reporters were expelled because of the Journal’s coverage of a Chinese government crackdown on Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province.
Last month, the State Department designated Xinhua and the other outlets, as well as the Chinese news agency Hai Tian Development USA, as “foreign missions.” That means their employees in the U.S. are treated as foreign government employees, not journalists.
The staffing reductions apply to any Chinese citizens working for the four news organizations in the U.S., whether they are reporters or managers or technicians. The outlets can still hire as many Americans as they like. Hai Tian wasn’t included in the new cap because it currently has only two Chinese staff on its payroll in the U.S., the officials said.