- - Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Apart from the obvious, there isn’t much more to be said about this week’s banishment of American journalists from China. On Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry demanded the credentials of American citizens working for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times and seems poised to take similar measures against Time magazine and the Voice of America.

The obvious point is that the People’s Republic of China is a totalitarian state, and when the power of a totalitarian state is threatened, it responds with force. The brutal suppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang province, and the violent crackdown on civil uprisings in Hong Kong, illustrate this elementary point. So, for that matter, do the Chinese origins of COVID-19. The Communist Party, which is the real government in China, cannot tolerate press freedom, as Americans understand it, or journalists interested in reporting the facts. The facts in China aren’t flattering to its government so the journalists have to go.

That’s the obvious point. The only other observation to be made is that China, in its customary fashion, is lying not just about the origins of COVID-19 (which it blames on American servicemen traveling in Asia) but about the cause of this escalating standoff as well.

It began, in fact, six weeks ago with an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal about COVID-19 which referred, in its headline, to the People’s Republic as “the Real Sick Man of Asia.” This prompted Beijing to immediately expel three Journal reporters and demand a retraction and apology. To their credit, neither the Journal nor the Trump administration were prepared to appease China by restricting press freedom in America. Moreover, to emphasize the point, the White House reclassified Chinese state-run outlets in America — the Xinhua News Agency, China Daily, China Radio International and the China Global Television Network — as “foreign missions” which, in turn, required them to reduce their number of Chinese employees in the United States from 160 to 100.

Until this week’s expulsion orders, the conflict had largely been fought with words. The Chinese foreign ministry has not only propagated the false claim that COVID-19 originated in the United States but has also complained that employees of Chinese media suffer “unreasonable oppression” in the United States.

Of course, the only oppression suffered by Chinese journalists here is official American recognition that they are employed by the Chinese government — and ultimately controlled by China’s Communist Party. The “oppression,” as it were, is entirely self-inflicted. Otherwise, this latest round in an ongoing argument speaks for itself: The People’s Republic of China has much to conceal, and its government is fully prepared to hide it.

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