In a small de-escalation of tensions, China and the United States have agreed to loosen restrictions on each other’s journalists.
The deal was struck ahead of Tuesday’s virtual summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden, according to the official China Daily newspaper.
The deal signals some progress on a subject that has strained ties for a long time, but specifics must yet be worked out. COVID- A substantial advance in media relations is also hampered by 19 travel restrictions and long-standing barriers experienced by international reporters in China.
According to China Daily, the US will award Chinese journalists one-year multiple-entry visas and will immediately begin a procedure to address “duration of status” difficulties. Once the US policies take effect, China will treat American journalists equally, and both sides will award media visas for new applicants “depending on applicable laws and regulations,” according to the article.
Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, did not provide a date for implementation, but called the deal a “hard-won success that is in both sides’ interests and should be cherished.”
“We hope that the United States will keep its promise to put relevant measures and policies in place as soon as possible,” Zhao said at a daily briefing. “We also hope that the United States will work with China to create favorable conditions for both (nations’) media to continue to work and live in each other’s countries.”
The State Department said in a statement to The Associated Press late Tuesday that China has agreed to provide visas to a group of American journalists “if they are eligible under all applicable rules and regulations.”
According to the statement, “we will continue to issue visas to (Chinese) journalists who are otherwise eligible for the visa under US law.”
China has also agreed to extend the validity of U.S. journalist visas from the current 90 days to one year.
“On a reciprocal basis,” the State Department said, referring to the People’s Republic of China, “we are promising to raise the validity of U.S. visas awarded to PRC journalists to one year as well.”
The press situation in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese colony, was not mentioned in either statement, despite the fact that both local and foreign journalists have been under growing pressure. The Economist reported last week that Hong Kong has refused to renew Sue-Lin Wong’s visa. The refusal has not been explained by the authorities.
For more than a year, tensions between the two nations have been fuelled by restrictions on journalists, after the US halved 20 visas provided to Chinese state media journalists and compelled those who remained to register as foreign agents, among other adjustments.
China retaliated by removing American journalists and severely restricted the working conditions of those who remained in the country.
According to China Daily, the new deal “was the culmination of more than a year of tough discussions over both countries’ handling of media outlets.”
“Further China-US collaboration is intended to bring more good news to the two nations’ media outlets,” the publication wrote.
“We are gratified that their correspondents will be able to return to the PRC to continue their important work,” the State Department said, adding that it has “remained in close consultation with the affected outlets, as well as other outlets facing personnel shortages due to PRC government policy decisions.” We applaud this accomplishment, but it is only the first step.”
The State Department also stated that it would continue to work to improve access and conditions for American and foreign journalists in China, where they face numerous challenges such as police interrogation, harassment that prevents them from doing their jobs, personal threats, and lawsuits brought by people they interview.