AS THE RICH GET TESTED, SO DOES US-CHINA RELATIONSHIP
China has declared that it will expel US nationals working for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), effective immediately from 17 March. In an additional twist, China imposed an unprecedented prohibition on the relocation of affected journalists to Hong Kong, a common refuge for those blocked by China.
This is a significant escalation in a tit-for-tat dispute between the two. Earlier in March, the US has capped the number of US-based journalists working for China state media outlets in the US and designating these outlets as “foreign missions”. This means that Chinese media outlets will need to gain approval before attaining office spaces and report personnel changes in the companies.
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China’s retaliation also comes against a backdrop of anti-Asian sentiments amidst the coronavirus outbreak. A contentious title in WSJ’s op-ed “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia” prompted China to expel three WSJ’s journalists in mid-February.
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Horrific re-education camps in Xinjiang are being exposed by foreign reporters. A wave of unprecedented anger over the death of the whistleblowing Chinese doctor is reported by foreign correspondents in China. Public opinion of the Chinese Communist Party has taken a hit domestically and globally in recent times.
“Chinese leaders have domestic political reasons for kicking out foreign independent news media,” said Jacob Stokes, senior policy analyst in the China program at the United States Institute of Peace. “It means less scrutiny of official decisions, including those related to coronavirus, as well as events in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.”
“Beijing also wants to control the narrative globally about the origins and China’s handling of the (COVID-19) pandemic.”
It is not surprising that China’s projection of itself as a responsible and heroic government will gain traction domestically as it contrasts itself against a decadent, declining and racist US that is not only failing to look after its citizens but also pinning the blame on China. Whether Xi Jinping’s weakening public opinion will be saved by Trump’s racist vocabulary remains to be seen.