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The two faces of the US in the eyes of a former China correspondent



Remembering those strange days in March when as a reporter for the Xinhua agency -where I worked for years in New York- I was suddenly forced to return to my country after the US order to limit the number of Chinese journalists in the country, I just felt that everything that had happened it was too dramatic to be true.

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An abrupt end

On March 2, the administration of US President Donald Trump ordered four Chinese media outlets to reduce the size of their staff working in the United States.

As of March 13, the four Chinese media outlets were only allowed to employ 100 Chinese nationals combined among them in the United States, about 40 percent fewer, implying that some 60 Chinese journalists had to leave the country.

The announcement came when I was about to attend a press conference given by the Chinese mission to the United Nations.

Since China was to assume the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of March, Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN, briefed the press on the work program for the month.

I managed to stay calm despite the expulsion order de facto and I carefully recorded the meeting knowing that my tenure at Xinhua’s UN office could come to an abrupt end.

At a press conference on March 2, Zhang announced that the council would hold a debate on multilateralism during the Chinese presidency. The proposal evoked what the United States had done to break with the camp of multilateralism in the last couple of years when I was covering the UN news.

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United States as a permanent member of the Security Council, in defiance of dominant values, collided with many nations on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, climate change, and the Iran nuclear agreement, among others.

Washington, with its questionable policies and actions, is losing support globally and has been admonished by various UN bodies on many occasions.

On May 4, 2018, the United States moved its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem after Washington broke with decades of American policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, drawing intense international criticism, including from the UN.

In late 2017, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution in which He declared that any decision modifying the status of Jerusalem would be “null and void.”

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The General Assembly has reiterated a long-standing call every year for the last nearly three decades to end the United States’ economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba imposed in 1960.

The slogan of “America First” has no place on the multilateralism roundtable, but the Trump administration is warning others to “take it or leave it,” while threatening to withdraw from multilateral mechanisms.

In recent years, for example, Washington has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, Unesco, the UN Human Rights Council and the Global Compact on Migration.

Given his inability to address the health crisis of COVID-19, the Trump administration has also tried to shift the blame to the World Health Organization and withdrew the United States from this world body.

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A French colleague, also a UN reporter, came to our offices only to express his support after he learned of the order against the Chinese journalists.

“Isn’t the American order an irony of the freedom of the press enshrined in the United States Constitution?”, said. He also suggested that Chinese journalists seek the help of the UN Media Liaison and Accreditation Unit and the UN Correspondents Association.

But in the face of the United States’ abuse of power, the UN has tried to communicate, although it has rarely succeeded in convincing the United States to change its problematic policies.

Pursuant to the agreement reached between the UN and the United States regarding the UN headquarters, which entered into force in 1947, the United States is generally required to allow foreign diplomats access to the UN.

But Washington has repeatedly set aside its international responsibilities and obligations and has used the visas of diplomats addressing the UN as bargaining chips, and even weapons, merely for the benefit of its own political calculations.

The US government has already prevented members of several foreign delegations, including those from Russia and Iran, from attending the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. It has also restricted the activities of all members of Cuba’s permanent mission to the UN.

Back home

I later learned that Xinhua took on the US State Department because from a legal point of view, although the UN headquarters is located in the United States, Chinese nationals who work in the UN office do not provide coverage. to American news and the United States has no right to deport them.

Beijing Airport (Beijing), the city where Chinese journalist Xu Xiaolei arrived.

However, the White House asserted that the staffing limit applied to all Chinese nationals working in the United States for the affected Chinese media. Even more irritating was that Washington asked affected employees to leave the country. despite the difficulties and health risks of traveling amid the pandemic of the covid-19.

Pressured by the deadline to leave, I asked my colleagues to help me buy the plane tickets, very difficult to get because many airlines reduced flights in the middle of the pandemic. Thanks to my friends I also managed to get some N95 masks, which were no longer available on the market.

After a 13 hour flight and 12 hours after landing, I filled out a health form, entered customs and was quarantined in a hotel in Beijing completely exhausted.

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I was assigned to a priority group to undergo nucleic acid testing because someone who was traveling on the same plane was diagnosed with Covid-19. I also had a full check-up at Xiaotangshan Hospital for a sore throat. Fortunately, the covid-19 test came back negative.

Thinking back over the years, I can remember that the United States Government has continuously escalated its crackdown on the Chinese media, from the mandatory registration as a “foreign agent” and its handling as “foreign missions”, to the refusal to issue visas for more than 20 Chinese journalists and the exile of Chinese reporters from the United States.

After I returned to China, The United States continued to tighten controls. In May, the United States announced that it would cut the period of stay for work visas for all Chinese journalists in the United States to 90 days, causing great uncertainty among them.

In the last semester since I returned to China, I often remember my days in New York. I found America to be a land of contradictions with many different faces. In New York I saw a diverse and inclusive American society, at the UN I saw a stubborn country that defies multilateralism and that he is always imposing sanctions on whoever he finds unpleasant.

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I had contact with many kind and friendly New Yorkers: the maintenance worker Willis who installed a sofa for me and did not want me to pay him, the doorman Wilmoth who knew all the residents of my apartment building and who enthusiastically reminded everyone to pick up their packages , and Dr. Martin Wolff, who reduced my medical expenses and patiently explained my condition to me.

Many Americans are like them: tolerant, respectful, and helpful. They are not hostile to China, nor to the Chinese people. Or rather, many are benefiting from economic globalization and the development of China-US trade and relations. What matters to them is having a better life and realizing their personal worth. Contrary to what some American politicians claim, they are the least interested in the so-called “new Cold War.”

The current US administration has always boasted of the so-called politics of ‘America First’ and states that ‘It will make America great again’ (Make America Great Again).

But when the United States repeatedly abandons multilateralism, withdraws from international responsibilities and obligations, constantly engages in ideological confrontations, and repeatedly holds external factors accountable for its internal failures, the so-called “America First” policy will only face more opposition and its coveted “greatness” will only diminish.

(He worked in the Xinhua office at the UN).

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XU XIAOLEI
Former Xinhua correspondent at the UN


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