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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

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

CDC says fully vaccinated people can take fewer precautions

Photo: Filip Filipovic/Getty Images

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can take fewer precautions in certain situations, including socializing indoors without masks when in the company of low-risk or other vaccinated individuals, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Monday.

Why it matters: Per the report, there's early evidence that suggests vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and are potentially less likely to transmit the virus to other people. At the time of its publication, the CDC said the guidance would apply to about 10% of Americans.

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