Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department on Tuesday designated five Chinese media companies as foreign missions of the Asian nation, requiring them to register with the United States as if they were an embassy or consulate.
Xinhua News Agency, the China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily and the People's Daily have been designated as foreign missions under the Foreign Missions Act, two State Department officials with the Office of Foreign Missions told reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
"We're making this designation based on the very indisputable fact that all five of these are subject to the control of the Chinese government," a senior State Department official said on background.
Effective immediately, the media companies must notify the Office of Foreign Missions within the State Department about who their employees are and where they live. They will also need to get approval from the State Department to buy or lease real estate, the officials said.
The senior State Department official said it took time to come to the decision to designate the outlets as foreign missions, but that they must call the entities what they are -- "organs of the Chinese one-party state propaganda apparatus."
"The fact of the matter is, each and every single one of these entities does, in fact, work 100 percent for the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party," the official said.
The official said the move was implemented as Chinese President Xi Jinping has tightened his reins on media, especially state-run media since he took over as he sees it crucial to the future of the Communist Party and the country.
The 2017 National Security Strategy also highlighted China as one of the United States' great power competitors, the officials said, who added that they aren't seeking conflict with Beijing but to create transparency.
However, the move is expected to anger Beijing, which has repeatedly lashed out at the United States in recent months for attacking China, specifically over its human rights record.
The pair declined to speculate on how Beijing may respond or that it might retaliate against American journalists working in the Asian nation.
"We're painfully aware of the very tough operating environment that U.S. and other foreign journalists operate under in China," the official said. "... It's already the case that freedom of the press is under severe siege in the People's Republic of China, and that was long before this announcement came about."
The officials stressed that the move is not intended to constrain the journalistic work of the organizations.
"We are serving a certain purpose by making clear that these guys are part and parcel of the PRC government," the official said. "These are not independent journalist outlets."