The United States has tried to teach China a lesson in the media. It turned around.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is better known for shouting at journalists than for comforting them.

But when Pompeo called the publishers of the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on March 21, he said he was there to offer help, according to someone with first-hand knowledge of the matter. ‘call. And he admitted that the Trump administration’s last shot at China had been, if not wrong, badly planned.

Indeed, on March 2 – a month after President Trump banned travel from China and the day the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States exceeded 100 – the State Department announced the the long-awaited expulsion of around 60 employees from five Chinese state media. outlets working in the United States.

The US decision gave the Communist Party a perfect excuse to get rid of the pesky American journalists who had, in the past two months, offered the world a window on China’s deadly mistakes in responding to the epidemic of the virus. On March 17, China closed the window, announcing the expulsion of journalists from the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and forcing the dismissal of Chinese nationals who worked for these outlets as well as for Voice of America and CNN.

“Considering the fact that having good information outside of China is vital because of the coronavirus, the US decision was a fairly dire one,” said Megha Rajagopalan, correspondent for BuzzFeed News whose visa n was not renewed in 2018 after reporting the mass internment of Muslims in China. Rajagopalan and other expelled journalists, however, stressed that the US crackdown is nothing compared to China’s brazen efforts to undermine the free media.

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