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A national flag-raising ceremony is held at Tian'anmen Square in Beijing on Jan. 1. (Photo by Peng Ziyang /Xinhua via Getty Images)

A Republican congressman has asked Attorney General William Barr to examine whether Chinese state news agency Xinhua has registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), in a letter viewed exclusively by Axios.

Why it matters: The wave of U.S. government concern about foreign government funded-media outlets isn't subsiding — and China is still a main focus.

In the Jan. 22 letter to Barr, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) notes that Xinhua does not appear to have registered yet and calls it "extremely troubling" that it hasn't. He asks the Department of Justice to look closely at the issue.

  • Xinhua operate bureaus in major cities across the United States.
  • The letter quotes the 2017 annual report from the U.S.-China Security and Economic Review Commission, which stated that "Xinhua serves some functions of an intelligence agency by gathering information and producing classified reports for the Chinese government."
  • FARA requires entities that receive foreign government funding or direction to submit disclosures to the Department of Justice, and that information is entered into a public database. The law does not interfere with or regulate the operations of those who register.

What they're saying:

  • "Xinhua and the Chinese Communist Party have deep, longstanding ties," Banks noted in the letter — but "there have been no reports that the Xinhua News Agency has filed as a foreign agent."

Context: Banks' letter is a follow-up to a January 2018 letter spearheaded by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio which called on the Justice Department to look closely at Chinese state-funded media outlets operating in the United States, including Xinhua and CGTN America, the U.S. outpost of China's government-run broadcaster.

  • Leahy and Rubio sent that letter one month after I reported that CGTN America had not registered under FARA.

Background: The Russia investigation highlighted the role of foreign-funded media outlets in efforts to influence U.S. public opinion. The Department of Justice compelled Russian government-funded news network RT America to register under FARA, which helped spark discussion around official Chinese outlets in the United States.

But the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed concern with the Justice Department's move over the past two years to compel some foreign government-funded media outlets to register under the act.

  • "We're uncomfortable with governments deciding what constitutes journalism or propaganda," CPJ said in a statement after Russian news outlet RT was compelled to register in November 2017.

Read the letter:

Go deeper: China's expanding global influence campaigns are sparking pushback

Go deeper

Companies deploy tech to prevent retail crime

Customers in a Home Depot in Pleasanton, California, in February 2021. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Retailers have a new edge for fighting theft: They're using technology to disable stolen goods — from iPhones to Black & Decker drills — and render them useless.

Why it matters: Organized retail crime has a considerable affect on retailers every year, costing them an average of $719,000 per $1 billion dollars in sales, according to estimates from the National Retail Federation.

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Take a listen: Company founder and CEO Daniel Ek appeared on the Axios Re:Cap podcast to discuss how the podcast business model is changing, why he's spending big on exclusive shows and his personal favorites in both podcasting and music.

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Bipartisan group reaches agreement on $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

After weeks of long nights and endless Zoom calls, a bipartisan group of senators finally reached a deal on "the major issues" in their $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure package, GOP senators involved in the talks announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It could be days before the group finishes writing the bill, but the Senate can begin debating the legislation in earnest now that they have resolved the outstanding issues. The bill needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate.

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