After foreign reporters increased their scrutiny of the Chinese government and its politicians in 2012, and with a backlash ensuing against them and their publications, The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos writes that the U.S. State Department should both address the treatment of American reporters in China and weigh its current approach to Chinese reporters in America:
Why is this happening now? At bottom, it’s a curious confluence of skill, corruption, and record-keeping. Twenty years ago, most foreign correspondents made their bones on exotic front lines, and rarely ventured into the wilds of business reporting until they came home. But these days the ranks of the foreign press include a number of people who came up reading 10-Ks and bond prospectuses and have the instinct to deploy those skills abroad. At the same time, the increasing sophistication of China’s economy has forced the bureaucracy to create a body of records that, if deciphered correctly, can provide a roadmap of relationships that no human source could easily match. And finally, the scale of corruption in China has grown right along with the economy, creating a target-rich environment.
Some are calling for the U.S. to respond by delaying or preventing Chinese journalists from entering the United States. Last year, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, introduced the “Chinese Media Reciprocity Act,” which would compel the State Department to deny visas to all but a handful of the some six-hundred-and-fifty Chinese citizens working in the U.S., until China removes the obstacles to Americans. France, I’m told, did the same thing behind the scenes, and the problems disappeared. But this strikes me as unattractive option that risks undermining the very values of free, unfettered reporting that empower the American press in the first place. (For a smart take, see this testimony by Robert
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