The United States should "immediately correct its wrongdoing" of setting a personnel cap on five Chinese media outlets operating in the U.S., the Foreign Ministry said on March 3, adding that China reserves the right to take countermeasures.
The U.S. Department of State announced on March 2 a limit on the number of Chinese citizens permitted to work in the U.S. for the five organizations, which it designated in February as "foreign missions".
The media outlets affected by the move are Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International and China Daily Distribution Corp. Hai Tian Development USA, which is also included under the cap, is the U.S. distributor of the People's Daily.
The cap, effective from March 13, will bring the current number of about 160 Chinese employees to 100.
China is firmly opposed to and strongly condemns the move, which is a "groundless political crackdown" on the five media outlets, as well as a decision made based on a Cold War mentality and ideological bias, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a daily news conference on March 3.
Chinese reporters stationed in the U.S. have a long history of strictly abiding by the U.S. law, observing journalism ethics and making reports in the U.S. guided by the principles of objectivity, fairness, truthfulness and accuracy, he said.
Under the name of a personnel cap, the policy amounts to the "expulsion" of Chinese reporters, Zhao said.
"It would seriously affect Chinese media's normal coverage in the U.S., seriously damage Chinese media's reputation and seriously disrupt normal people-to-people exchanges between the two countries," he said.
The policy is also a result of the "ever-escalating suppression" of Chinese reporters by the U.S., which goes back to 2018, when it required some Chinese media outlets to register as "foreign agents", according to Zhao.
The move "exposes the hypocrisy of the so-called 'freedom of the press' the U.S. has flaunted", and is a "naked double standard and bullying", Zhao said, adding that it will seriously harm China-U.S. ties.
Rebuking the U.S. comment that it has adopted the policy to seek "reciprocity", the spokesman said the U.S. is discriminating against Chinese media.
China has never imposed limits on the number of U.S. media outlets' China offices and their employees, he said.
On the other hand, the U.S. has been restricting Chinese reporters' normal travel by denying them visas since 2018, Zhao said, pointing out that at least 21 people had been denied visas since 2019.
"This time, the U.S. has again committed a mistake by ... virtually 'expelling' 60 employees at China's media outlets operating in the U.S. Is this reciprocal?" he said.
Zhao further pointed out that nine Chinese media outlets operate in the U.S., while there are 29 U.S. media outlets operating in China.
In contrast to China's visa policies that allow U.S. reporters to travel to and from China multiple times before their visas expire, the U.S. "has adopted discriminatory measures targeting Chinese reporters" by issuing one visa for each entry, Zhao said.
Also, the U.S. charges more than twice as much as what China charges for visa issuance, he added.
"Will the U.S. carry out such 'reciprocity' on media from countries other than China?" he asked.
"It's the U.S. that has violated rules of the game in the first place. China has no choice but to play along," he said.