Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily has defended its decision not to publish an article submitted last month by the US ambassador to China on the grounds it was “full of loopholes”.
The mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party issued a statement on Thursday after Washington accused Beijing of being hypocritical for refusing to run the piece, titled “Resetting the Relationship Based on Reciprocity”.
“We have told the US embassy that the op-ed in the name of Ambassador [Terry] Branstad we received this time is full of loopholes and seriously inconsistent with the facts,” the newspaper said, without specifying the alleged inaccuracies.
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It said the US embassy, which wanted the article to be published on September 4, insisted the piece be “published as submitted” and not be revised by the newspaper’s editors.
“If the US wishes to publish in People’s Daily … substantial changes should be made,” it said.
The paper also accused the United States of suppressing Chinese state media, including People’s Daily, by effectively expelling Chinese journalists from America via its discriminatory visa system.
Despite its refusal to publish Branstad’s article, People’s Daily said it was open to manuscripts from “foreign friends”, including the US ambassador, as long as they had a “fair attitude” towards China.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the newspaper’s decision to reject the piece.
“The People’s Daily’s response once again exposes the Chinese Communist Party’s fear of free speech and serious intellectual debate – as well as Beijing’s hypocrisy when it complains about lack of fair and reciprocal treatment in other countries,” he said.
The United States’ democratic system allowed Chinese government officials, including Beijing’s ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai, to frequently have their views published by American media outlets, it said.
Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that the article was rejected on the grounds it was defamatory to the Chinese government.
Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the US embassy contacted People’s Daily on August 26 and asked for Branstad’s article to be published verbatim on September 4.
A day later, the US state department’s top Asia official David Stilwell contacted the Chinese embassy in Washington to see if the piece would be published and was told the newspaper was “looking into it”, Zhao said.
“Would you agree to publish a fact-twisting and defamatory article about your country without any revision?” he said.
“This move obviously has nothing to do with the freedom of press. It was designed to find fault [with China] and was a deliberate act of peng ci.”
The Chinese phrase translates as “touching porcelain” but is used to refer to the practice of placing ostensibly expensive, fragile items (usually porcelain) in places where they can easily be broken, so as to scam the victim.
While Zhao did not identify those parts of Branstad’s article that caused offence, the text was released by the US embassy in Beijing.
“We are two different nations with different pasts.” it said. “The United States continues to learn from its mistakes and push forward to forge a better future. We hope that China can do the same.”
He said the two countries needed to “build a foundation for understanding and true reciprocity ... [which] must start with the Chinese government being willing to address our concerns about the imbalance in the relationship and allowing our two peoples to build relationships through unrestricted engagement and uncensored discussion.
“Only then will I enjoy the freedoms to engage the Chinese people that we guarantee Ambassador Cui in the United States, and only then will we have genuine reciprocity and a genuinely balanced relationship.”
Earlier this week, several US news organisations, including Bloomberg, CNN and The Wall Street Journal, said Beijing had held off on renewing the press credentials of some of their journalists working in China.
Meanwhile, Chinese journalists employed by non-American news outlets in the United States are facing similar problems getting the documents they need after the US issued a new policy that limits their work visas to 90 days.
Also this week, the US revoked more than 1,000 visas issued to Chinese nationals in a move to stop students and researchers believed to have links to the Chinese military from entering the country.
Earlier this year, Beijing revoked the press credentials of several American journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
The People’s Daily’s refusal to publish Branstad’s article came after Chinese state newspaper China Daily in May ran an edited version of a piece written by all of the European Union member nations’ ambassadors in Beijing.
The published version omitted an insinuation that China was the origin of the coronavirus.
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