More than two years after the Justice Department (DOJ) reportedly ordered it, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has registered as a foreign agent under US law.
According to the DOJ’s online FARA database, Xinhua’s U.S. division was registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) on May 5. (pdf). After CGTN, the international arm of China Central Television, and China Daily, an English-language newspaper overseen by the regime’s propaganda department, Xinhua is the third Chinese state-run media organisation to register as a foreign agent.
The Wall Street Journal reported in September 2018 that the DOJ had ordered Xinhua and CGTN to register under FARA. CTGN did so in February of this year.
FARA was enacted in 1938 in order to counter Nazi propaganda and influence campaigns in the United States. It necessitates the registration of foreign governments, political parties, and lobbyists hired in the United States by the Department of Justice. While registration has no effect on the editorial content of a media outlet, it does require the organisation to disclose its annual budget and expenditures.
According to the FARA filing, Xinhua’s Beijing headquarters paid its North American bureau more than $8.6 million in operating expenses between March 2020 and April 2021. The North American bureau of Xinhua has eight locations: New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and San Francisco.
Since 2011, Xinhua has leased a massive screen in Times Square known as the “China screen.” In February, the electronic billboard displayed advertisements urging unity in the fight against the pandemic, as well as promoting Beijing’s global efforts to combat the CCP virus. At the same time that WHO investigators were looking into the virus’s origins, the regime was being chastised for its lack of transparency.
Expenses associated with the hiring of the billboard were not included in the FARA filings. According to the documents, Xinhua paid more than $130,000 in unspecified “communication fees” between March 2020 and May 2021. It does not specify to whom the fees were paid.
Xinhua’s filing comes after several lawmakers asked the DOJ to look into Xinhua’s FARA registration in recent years. In a January 2020 letter to then-Attorney General William Barr, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said it was “extremely troubling” that the outlet had not yet registered, adding that “Xinhua and the Chinese Communist Party have deep, longstanding ties.”
Xinhua was one of 15 Chinese state-controlled media outlets designated as foreign missions by the Trump administration last year. The move, which limited their operations in the United States but had no effect on what they could publish, was made in recognition of their roles as Chinese Communist Party propaganda organs.
According to a 2017 congressional commission report, Xinhua was not only involved in propaganda work.
According to the report by the US China Economic and Security Review Commission, “Xinhua serves some of the functions of an intelligence agency by gathering information and producing classified reports for the Chinese leadership on both domestic and international events.”
Former Xinhua reporter Canadian Mark Bourrie claimed that while working as a press gallery reporter from 2010 to 2012, he was used by the outlet to gather intelligence on overseas critics of the regime. In one case, he was asked to prepare a transcript of the Dalai Lama’s press conference with reporters in Ottawa, as well as to learn what the spiritual leader discussed in a private meeting with Canada’s then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. When Bourrie asked his bureau chief if the material would be used for a news story, he was told no.
“When they go to a two-day Tibet conference and film and transcribe everything, that is not going to a special publication—that is going to Chinese intelligence,” Bourrie told The Epoch Times at the time.