China has tightened restrictions on foreign journalists since Xi Jinping became the country’s leader four years ago, complicating efforts to parse Beijing’s thinking at a time when its slowing economy and growing global ambitions are making it increasingly important to the world.

A report released on Thursday by PEN America, a writers’ group based in New York, tries to quantify how difficult it has become for journalists to get the facts out of China. Its conclusion: The estimated 700 foreign journalists in China from 50 countries “face more restrictions now than at any other time in recent history.” The report also highlighted several instances of what it said were foreign media companies compromising editorial standards to do business in China.The group surveyed more than three dozen journalists, as well as local Chinese employees of foreign outlets, experts, media groups and others to compile the 76-page report. PEN America has often addressed freedom of expression in China, usually concerning Chinese writers. Its executive director, Suzanne Nossel, said in an interview that it was also important to highlight challenges faced by foreigners trying to report on China.“Of course, we can’t compare this to the pressures felt by Chinese writers,” Ms. Nossel said. “But we are dependent on the critical link that foreign correspondents play. They are an important piece of the puzzle of understanding China.”The report cited several areas of concern, including increased harassment of foreign journalists working in sensitive places, like Tibet and Xinjiang, an autonomous region in northwest China. Reporters interviewed said they were often videotaped while on assignment, and sometimes followed so closely that they could not interview residents.Others said that officials had become extremely sensitive to descriptions of Mr. Xi. Reporters and editors say they have been berated for unflattering comparisons of Mr. Xi to Mao Zedong, or for saying that he is the center of a personality cult.Although the report’s findings are most likely consistent with the experiences of many foreign correspondents, some said it did not put the encounters in a longer-term perspective.In the 1990s, most trips outside the capital involved being accompanied by minders from the provincial government. Foreign correspondents also had to live in housing compounds that were guarded by soldiers. Although by the late 1990s and early 2000s these rules were increasingly ignored, they were still used to punish correspondents and separate them from local society.“It depends on their definition of recent,” said Melinda Liu, who opened Newsweek’s bureau in 1980 and is its current bureau chief. “There have been times when it was better but also times when it was much, much worse.”China eased restrictions in the prelude to the 2008 Summer Olympics. But after the Games, the country ramped up enforcement of regulations amid broadly tighter controls over Chinese civil society. Visa processing became more bureaucratic and sometimes restrictive, while the government was less willing to accept criticism of its leaders or policies.The report also critiques the lack of information provided by government ministries, a problem that dates back decades. Some journalists said they got less information from officials than in the past, especially routine statistics.“Foreign journalists in China are important to businesspeople,” Jörg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, said in an interview.“They impact the public opinion of our stakeholders globally,” he said, including companies and their shareholders, governments, nongovernmental organizations like think tanks and volunteer groups, and the public.Despite the crackdown in civil society, in some ways more policy information is available than in the past because of the internet and social media. And despite heavy monitoring, Chinese discussion groups circulate trenchant critiques of government policy, even on delicate issues such as the Cultural Revolution. Although government officials rarely make themselves available for interviews, many of their policies and positions are clearer now than in past decades.One area of concern highlighted in the report is the government’s exploitation of the division between media companies’ business and news-gathering operations. Most media organizations say they insulate news-gathering operations from business strategies, but this has been harder to maintain as those companies seek opportunities in China.The report said a number of news organizations did not publish some stories in Chinese that were critical of China. Quoting anonymous journalists, it also said the news service Reuters had tightened its standards in a way that led to fewer news articles about human rights, though the report noted that the organization still covered the topic in ambitious news projects.The allegations could not be independently verified. A Reuters spokeswoman said, “We are extremely proud of our accurate, fair and independent reporting in China and around the world.”The report said The New York Times Chinese site did translate similar articles in full, although the site is blocked in China.The report was scheduled to be formally presented Thursday evening in New York at the Overseas Press Club.