The US and China have reached an agreement to ease visa restrictions on each other’s journalists following a series of tit-for-tat expulsions. Following a virtual meeting between US President, Joe Biden, and Chinese premier, Xi Jinping, it’s understood that Chinese journalists will now be issued with one-year multiple entry visas by the United States.
As part of the agreement, the US will also immediately tackle the process for addressing ‘duration of status’ issues. Meanwhile, in a reciprocal move, Beijing has said that it will commit to offering equal treatment to US journalists once the White House brings its US visa policies into action.
The two countries have also agreed to issue visas to new journalists in accordance with laws and regulations, representing a move away from previous hostility towards each other’s journalists over the past 12 months.
However, while the agreement was welcomed, a spokesperson for the US Department of State said that it was only an initial step, saying: “We welcome this progress but see it simply as initial steps. The media environment in the PRC [People’s Republic of China] has deteriorated significantly in recent years.”
Chinese foreign ministry official, Zhao Lijian, said: “An agreement was only reached after a ‘series of difficult negotiations’ between the US and China, which took more than a year.”
“We hope the US will honor its commitment and implement relevant measures and policies as soon as possible. This hard-won outcome is in the interests of the media on both sides and should be cherished,” Lijian added.
Following the virtual summit between Biden and Xi, the consensus was that ‘as 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’, the two countries could reach agreements equitable for both sides, according to the Chinese foreign ministry official.
Amid strained relations between the US and China, which plummeted under the Trump administration, journalists have felt the effects of the tensions between the two countries, which started in tech and trade but spilled over into the media sector, according to a report published by The Independent.
The number of Chinese nationals allowed to work in the offices of Chinese media outlets based in the US has been slashed in recent years with the US only permitting nationals of China to enter the country on a single-entry US visa.
Since 2018, the US has refused the visa applications of more than 20 Chinese journalists, without explanation. Meanwhile, any visas that were issued were only granted for a duration of three months.
Amid the tit-for-tat spat, China accused the US of orchestrating a political crackdown with the US expelling US-based Chinese journalists from top American publications including The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, China also imposed restrictions on a number of US media outlets.
The US Department of State (DoS) official said: “We have remained in close consultation with the affected outlets facing personnel shortages, and we are gratified their correspondents will be able to return to the PRC to continue their important work.”
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