Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The State Department has ended five exchange programs with China, calling them "soft power propaganda tools" of the Chinese government.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Friday statement that the department is terminating the Policymakers Educational China Trip Program, the U.S.-China Friendship Program, the U.S.-China Leadership Exchange Program, and the U.S.-China Transpacific Exchange Program and the Hong Kong Educational and Cultural Program.
These programs, according to Pompeo, are conducted under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (MECEA), and allow U.S. government employees to travel using foreign government funds.
"While other programs funded under the auspices of the MECEA are mutually beneficial, the five programs in question are fully funded and operated by the PRC government as soft power propaganda tools," Pompeo wrote. "They provide carefully curated access to Chinese Communist Party officials, not to the Chinese people, who do not enjoy freedoms of speech and assembly. The United States welcomes the reciprocal and fair exchange of cultural programs with PRC officials and the Chinese people, but one-way programs such as these are not mutually beneficial."
Pompeo announced the change with less than two months left in President Donald Trump's administration, and amid strained relations between the two countries over trading practices and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.