Bill Seeks Reciprocity in US-China Media Relations

October 17, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015
Students for a Free Tibet protest below a new electronic billboard leased by Xinhua (2nd from top), on Aug. 1 in New York's Times Square. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
Students for a Free Tibet protest below a new electronic billboard leased by Xinhua (2nd from top), on Aug. 1 in New York's Times Square. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

A bill recently introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives seeks to correct a large imbalance between the official Chinese media presence in the United States and the official U.S. media presence in China.

H.R. 2899, the Chinese Media Reciprocity Act of 2011, was introduced in mid-September by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Randy Forbes (R-VA), and Ted Poe (R-TX).

“There is a very alarming disparity between the number of Chinese state media workers whom we grant visas to and the number of visas the Chinese grant to their American counterparts,” said Rohrabacher, as quoted in a Sept. 13 press release by his office.

Rohrabacher pointed to the fact that during 2010, approximately 650 Chinese citizens entered the United States on international journalist visas, whereas only two American journalists who work for outlets run by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) were granted permission to be stationed in mainland China. The BBG manages media outlets run by the U.S. government, such as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The press release states that “H.R. 2899 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to ensure open and free journalism access in China by enforcing the established reciprocal relationship between the numbers of visas issued to state media workers from each country.”

While journalists for Chinese state-run media outlets enjoy the free and uncensored media environment in the United States, the two journalists in China from Radio Free Asia and Voice America have been “routinely harassed by Chinese police and have been assaulted and detained by Chinese officials,” Rorhabacher said. “Voice of America and Radio Free Asia have been regularly jammed by the Communist government for years.”

In August of last year, the Washington DC office director, Ge Xiangwen, of the official Chinese regime mouthpiece Xinhua news agency told the Guanzhou-based 21st Century Economy Report that Xinhua has increased the number of its overseas offices from 102 to 120 in the past three years and proposes to raise the number to 200.

In August, Xinhua debuted a giant LED billboard in Times Square and also moved to expensive office space just off Times Square.

The Chief Editor of Beijing Spring, Hu Ping told The New Epoch Weekly that the number of offices Xinhua has managed to establish outside China is not the issue. “The important point is while China can speak freely here, others are not allowed to speak freely in China. In addition, many media staff from mainland China are actually not reporters, but on special commissions.”

Hu said, “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) establishes its news media in other countries by utilizing other countries’ press freedom, but at the same time, the United States has no chance of establishing a media presence in China. Media like the New Epoch Weekly and Beijing Spring can’t be seen! This is the most important and fundamental inequality.”

Mr. Zhang Weiguo, the chief-editor of Trend Magazine said that when it comes to freedom of the press, the two countries are worlds apart: “China has already exploited the openness of the western society to influence western politics, transact illegal business, and conduct intelligence activities.”

“The inequality of reporters is a long-standing problem. In the past, during the cold war, Western countries tried to befriend China to deal with the Soviet Union,” Zhang said. “Western countries don’t realize that China sends reporters to conduct activities not related to media. For, in America, if a reporter works also as an intelligence agent, his credibility immediately drops.”

Hu said, “Can you read American newspapers and magazines in Beijing? The U.S internet does not censor China, so you can access any mainland Chinese websites here, but mainland people can’t access foreign websites, the majority being censored. Doesn’t China’s ‘Golden Shield’ target foreign media? This is complete inequality.”

Zhang said, “Since China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, the inequality between media in China and the United States has become evident. It’s obvious that the CCP is using western countries’ relaxed polices to penetrate into the system and to influence American mainstream opinion.

“This new bill in Congress has created a new awareness. For many years, the Chinese ruling class and certain American groups partnered to lobby U.S. decision makers, the House, and the Senate. It’s not clear whether this bill will pass, but it shows a direction, awareness, and stance.”

Read the New Epoch Weekly article.