To Push China on Media Freedom, US Should Try WTO

By Lu Chen, Epoch Times
February 9, 2014 Updated: February 9, 2014

A range of ideas have been floated about how to correct the current imbalance between media freedom in China and the United States: American journalists who work in China are regularly harassed and denied visas, while Chinese journalists — including propaganda workers employed by the state — are free to roam in America.

To correct this imbalance, an American scholar suggests in a recent paper that the United States should start World Trade Organization (WTO) action against China to push it to open its media market. 

Aynne Kokas, a scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, proposed the idea in a recent her paper, “Building a Transparent Web: Transnational Social Media, Cybersecurity and Sino-U.S. Trade.”  

“The U.S. government should register a trade complaint with the WTO because of the preferential market access Chinese companies are receiving,” Kokas wrote in her paper.

Kokas continued: “The U.S. government should place increased restrictions on Chinese media companies that want to raise capital within U.S. markets until there is greater parity of market access.”

Chinese censors have blocked U.S. social media like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, while allowing “cloned” versions — like Weibo, Renren, and Youku — that they can control to dominate the market. 

Chinese websites and social media companies, some of whose success has owed to Chinese blocking of their U.S. competitors, have raised more than $43 billion in U.S. capital markets. 

Other forms of media, including television and newspapers, have also not been in equal trade in China and the U.S. 

China has regularly restricted foreign journalists operating there. A number of reporters with The New York Times have been forced to leave because they were not issued visas, while a number of other reporters with that and other newspapers still await visas. 

Chinese authorities have effectively barred U.S. media companies from competing in China because of the battery of Internet restrictions, and publishing and broadcast license restrictions. No foreign media company can freely operate in China. 

Chinese media outlets have unfettered access to the U.S. market, however. At the same time, among the hundreds of Chinese reporters sent to the United States every year, many function as intelligence officers, according to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). He said that these individuals collect information on overseas dissidents and other groups that are of interest to the Chinese leadership. 

“Why are we giving visas to Chinese spies?” he asked in the headline of an article published last year.