The US will start treating four major Chinese media outlets as foreign embassies, a move that will restrict their operations on American soil.

Senior US diplomat for East Asia David Stilwell says the designation will affect China Central Television, the China News Service, the People’s Daily and the Global Times.

Stilwell told reporters the move reflected their real status as “propaganda outlets” under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.

The move comes as US-China tensions are heightening in the run-up to President Donald Trump’s November re-election bid.

China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The four outlets will be added to five others placed under restrictions in February over US allegations they were used by China and its Communist rulers to spread propaganda.

The outlets will be required to inform the US State Department of their personnel rosters and real estate holdings, similar to rules covering embassies and other diplomatic missions.

In March, Washington said it was slashing the number of journalists allowed to work at US offices of major Chinese media outlets to 100 from 160 due to Beijing’s “long-standing intimidation and harassment of journalists”.

In response, China said it was revoking accreditations of American correspondents with the New York Times, News Corp’s Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, whose credentials expire by the end of 2020.