China and US agree to ease visa restrictions on each other’s journalists after tit-for-tat expulsions

·2-min read
File photo of US president Joe Biden and his chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (AP)
File photo of US president Joe Biden and his chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (AP)

China and the United States have agreed to ease visa restrictions for each other’s journalists and other media workers.

The consensus between Beijing and Washington DC was reached shortly before US president Joe Biden virtually met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Tuesday, reported China Daily citing foreign ministry sources.

Now, journalists of Chinese nationality will be issued one-year multiple entry visas by the US. The US will also immediately commence the process for addressing “duration of status” issues.

In a reciprocatory move, Beijing will commit to granting equal treatment to American journalists once the US brings its policies into action, the report added.

China and the US have also agreed to issue visas to new journalists in accordance with laws and regulations, signalling a departure from their hostile policies towards each other’s journalists for the past year.

A spokesperson for the US State Department gave similar details but said that these were only initial steps. “We welcome this progress but see it simply as initial steps,” the spokesperson said. “The media environment in the PRC [People’s Republic of China] has deteriorated significantly in recent years.”

The new agreement is a result of difficult negotiations between the US and China for more than a year, a Chinese foreign ministry official told state media outlet China Daily.

The consensus on the heels of the virtual summit showed that so long as the US and China “communicate with each other in a calm and peaceful way under the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit”, they could reach agreements equitable for both sides, the ministry official added.

Chinese and American journalists have borne the brunt of strained relations between the two countries after tensions in the tech and trade sectors spilled over into the media sector last year.

US slashed the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work at the American offices of Chinese media outlets and allowed them to be in the country only on a single-entry visa. They were required to re-apply for visas if they left the US briefly.

The US has refused visas to more than 20 Chinese journalists without any explanation since 2018 and confined them to the country with a three-month stay visa.

China accused the US of a political crackdown and, in turn, expelled US journalists from leading publications such as The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal last year. China also introduced restrictions on US media outlets.

Additional reporting by agencies

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