The Trump administration is considering whether to expel Chinese journalists in response to China’s own expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters, Bloomberg News reported on Monday.
A meeting will be held at the White House on Monday to discuss the administration’s options. The meeting will be led by deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, who himself was a Journal reporter based in Beijing.
According to Bloomberg, administration officials are debating whether to expel up to hundreds of Chinese journalists in its response, or whether such a move would even be legal, seeming to contradict American values regarding freedom of the press.
“This expulsion is yet another attempt to control the press, and prevent the world’s readers as well as investors from reading important stories about China,” said John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council, in comments on the situation on Friday. Ullyot called China’s expulsion of the Journal reporters an “egregious act.”
China expelled the three reporters after the Journal refused to apologize for a headline China deemed “racist.” The headline, “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” was chosen for a column by Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead on China’s difficulty in coping with the Wuhan coronavirus and the shaky financial foundations of its economy.
The phrase “sick man of Asia” was used in the late 1800’s to describe a China that had lost a string of wars and feared conquering by the western colonial powers. Dozens of reporters from the paper’s China bureau have called on the Journal‘s publisher to change the headline.