US lawmakers wary of deal between AP and Chinese media outlet Xinhua

14 US lawmakers are urging Associated Press to release the full text of a recent MoU signed with the communist party-sponsored news agency

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AP chief exec. Gary Pruitt (L) and Xinhua Pres. Cai Mingzhao (R) (Xinhua/AP)

AP chief exec. Gary Pruitt (L) and Xinhua Pres. Cai Mingzhao (R) (Xinhua/AP) (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern at a new agreement reached between China’s state news agency, Xinhua, and U.S.-based Associated Press (AP), urging that AP publicly release the text of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with communist news agency.

Fourteen U.S. lawmakers addressed a letter to AP’s chief executive, Gary Pruitt, on Dec. 19 asking for transparency about the agreement between the news agencies, reported the Washington Post.

The lawmakers were reportedly concerned after Xinhua published an announcement about the MoU in late November. Xinhua’s President Cai Mingzhao reportedly said “the two news agencies have broad cooperation in areas including new media, application of artificial intelligence (AI) and economic information.”

Given the current political climate of U.S.-China relations, many in the U.S. government are increasingly attuned to the potential of Chinese espionage and subversive influence in business, technology, and media.

The report from Xinhua and their agreement with AP quickly drew the interest of the lawmakers, who rightly recognize the organization as a propaganda tool of the communist party in Beijing, which represents a general threat to independent journalism and freedom of speech both in China, and abroad.

The Nov. 25 report from Xinhua said the following of AP Chief Executive Gary Pruitt.

“Pruitt said the two news organizations are complementary in many areas… He spoke highly of Xinhua's progress in the application of new technology such as its media brain and AI anchor, pledging to try his best to accelerate the process of cooperation between the two sides.”

The Congressional inquiry with AP is headed by Reps. Mike Gallagher and Brad Sherman, with support from Sens. Tom Cotton, Mark R. Warner and Marco Rubio. The letter points out that Xinhua is registered as a foreign agent in the U.S., and emphasizes that the news agency serves in some capacity as a Chinese intelligence agency serving the aims of the communist party.

The 2017 report by Congress’ U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission declared that part of Xinhua’s political role was to “discredit Western media outlets, and control public discussion of China.”

“In sharp contrast to the AP’s independent journalism, Xinhua’s core mission is to shape public opinion in ways sympathetic to the CCP’s legitimacy and behavior,” reads the letter from the lawmakers to AP’s Chief Executive.

A spokesperson for AP, Lauren Easton, stated that the MoU with Xinhua was to allow greater access in China, and would not compromise any important data or the independent operations of the company. The MoU “does not include or envision any sharing of artificial intelligence information, or any other technology,” Easton was quoted by the Washington Post.

Speaking about the letter asking for transparency, Rep. Brad Sherman was quoted saying the following.

"We need to be certain that this MOU is not an IOU…Xinhua uses its bureaus in the U.S. to collect intelligence for Beijing, so it’s common sense that a cooperation agreement with it and the AP should be scrutinized. We need full transparency.”

AP has yet to publicly release the complete text of the MoU signed with Xinhua.