David R. Stilwell, the assistant secretary for East Asia and the Pacific, declined to say in a telephone briefing with reporters including from The Times what actions the United States might then take based on that information.
The Trump administration is designating the US operations of four major Chinese media outlets as "foreign missions" in an action that could force some of their journalists to leave the country.
In a statement, State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus accused the ruling party of reorganizing China's "state propaganda outlets disguised as news agencies", saying the effort had escalated under President Xi Jinping and the government now has "even more direct control over them".
"Entities designated as foreign missions must adhere to certain administrative requirements that also apply to foreign embassies and consulates in the United States", it added.
State Department officials said the four organizations are essentially mouthpieces for the Chinese Communist Party and the government and should not be treated like ordinary foreign media.
The big picture: This is the latest step in a media war between the USA and China that has escalated during the pandemic.
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The escalating media row has added to tensions between the 2 superpowers, with China expelling more than a dozen United States journalists from the country this year.
President Donald Trump highlighted the dispute over the coronavirus when he spoke to a rally over the weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and used a racist term for COVID-19, calling it the "kung flu". "It's a fair thing to point out, as China tries to ridiculously rewrite history... ridiculously blame the coronavirus on American soldiers", McEnany said.
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"These aren't journalists. These are members of the propaganda apparatus in the PRC", Stillwell said in a conference call with reporters.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry official said Beijing and New Delhi were looking to "control and alleviate the situation through dialogue and consultation".
The US reduced the number of journalists allowed for the five outlets to 100 from around 160.
Asked about potential Chinese retaliation, Stilwell noted that American journalists working in China already faced tight restrictions on their activities.
The United States designated five Chinese state-run news organizations in mid-February to promote reciprocity with China as it accuses the Asian nation of restraining freedom of the press within its borders. The propaganda mill paid more than $11 million of that to The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal to publish inserts created to look like actual news articles.