The Chinese government revoked the press credentials of American journalists for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, effectively expelling them from the country.
The journalists will be required to turn in their press cards to the Chinese government within 10 calendar days and will "not be allowed to continue working as journalists in the People's Republic of China, including its Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions," according to the announcement from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs office.
The country also ordered the journalists from those media outlets — along with voice of America and Time magazine — to "declare in written form" information about their operation within the country.
What's the background?
The move is the latest escalation in a media war between the United States and China amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
In the announcement, the Chinese government stated that the expulsion was a necessary retaliation to the U.S. State Department's action last month, which designated five Chinese state media outlets as "foreign missions." The designation meant that the outlets would be treated as arms of the Chinese government.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued that the five outlets were "clearly controlled by the [Chinese Communist Party]" and that the U.S. was "simply recognizing that fact by taking this action."
Then in March, the State Department also capped the number of Chinese journalists that could work for the media outlets at 100, which resulted in 60 Chinese nationals having to leave the country.
'Disinformation and outlandish rumors'
The global coronavirus outbreak has heightened the intensity of the conflict of late, as many in the U.S. suspect that China lied for weeks regarding the origin and severity of the novel virus, which began in Wuhan, China, last year.
On Saturday, the State Department "hauled in" the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. to confront him over a Chinese official's unsubstantiated claims that the virus was introduced in Wuhan by the U.S. Army.
Then early this week, Secretary Pompeo again lashed out at the Chinese government for pushing the claims.
In a phone call with the Chinese Foreign Affairs office director, Pompeo "conveyed strong U.S. objections to PRC efforts shift blame for COVID-19 to the United States," according to a statement from the State Department.
"The Secretary stressed that this is not the time to spread disinformation and outlandish rumors, but rather a time for all nations to come together to fight this common threat," the statement added.