Three Wall Street Journal reporters have been expelled from Beijing by the Chinese Communist Party this morning. Superficially, it follows a number of harsh opinion pieces in the WSJ critical of the Chinese handling of the Coronavirus outbreak.
In particular Chinese authorities are aggrieved with one article – an opinion piece entitled ‘China – The Real Sick Man of Asia’ .
The opinion piece fired a broadside at the Chinese financial markets in the middle of the emerging coronavirus threat as it was on February 3.
However, the timing of the expulsions comes less than 24 hours after the Trump administration boldly designated China’s official media as operatives of the Chinese communist state.
The White House seems to be operating a twin strategy with regard to the Chinese in recent weeks. Publicly President Trump has been very supportive of President Xi and Chinese efforts to thwart the virus outbreak. However privately the US State Department has been aggressively stepping up their measures to counter Chinese influence and intelligence operations on the US mainland.
Governors Winter Meeting
On February 8th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the National Governors association during their Winter 2020 meeting in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The subject of his speech was a stark warning that Chinese intelligence had recently commissioned a report on each of the 50 governors of the United States to establish how each one rated in terms of their attitude to China. Pompeo laid out in no uncertain terms that China were actively engaged in influencing politicians at State and district levels. He pointed out that often this influence is first masqueraded in the form of Chinese investment in local business enterprises. This public tongue lashing will not have gone unnoticed in Beijing.
Today’s Chinese announcement regarding the WSJ journalists seems to be an escalation in this tit for tat diplomatic war between the two nations. It is the first time since 1998 that Foreign correspondents have been expelled from China. The Foreign Correspondents club of China have just released a statement condemning the actions of the Chinese government.
In other news Russia announced that it’s closing it’s border with China while it monitors the ongoing Chinese response to the coronavirus. Clearly, Russia do not believe that President Xi has the outbreak under control. The announcement will come as a significant blow to the Chinese leadership, as in recent days the reported daily deaths have dropped below 100 per day.