China & US agree to ease visa restrictions for journalists

The deal was reportedly done ahead of Xi and Biden's virtual summit.

Jean Chien Tay | November 19, 2021, 05:09 PM

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After the recent bilateral meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden, both China and the U.S. have announced an agreement to ease visa restrictions for journalists, the BBC reported.

According to the New York Times (NYT), the news was first reported by Chinese state media China Daily on Nov. 16, and confirmed by the U.S. State Department subsequently.

The deal was done ahead of Xi and Biden's virtual meeting on Nov. 15, China Daily reported.

The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and the New York Times (NYT) will be allowed to send journalists back to China under the agreement.

However, it is unclear whether the specific journalists that were expelled in 2020 would be allowed back into China for work, according to the NYT.

Both sides agree to issue one-year visas to journalists

According to China Daily, the U.S. will issue one-year multiple-entry visas to Chinese journalists and will immediately initiate a process to address “duration of status” issues.

"Based on the principle of reciprocity, the Chinese side commits to granting equal treatment to US journalists immediately after US policies enter into force," the Chinese state media said.

Currently, the length of visas for U.S. journalists in China is 90 days, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Visas will reportedly be issued to new journalists by China and the U.S. based on applicable laws and regulations, as per China Daily.

The paper added that the deal was "the outgrowth" after over a year of "difficult negotiations" for the treatment of media outlets.

"Hard-won achievement"

The spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- Zhao Lijian --  called the agreement a “hard-won achievement" that was in the interest of both countries, though he did not offer a timeline for the implementation, according to AP.

Zhao added that he hoped the U.S. will "keep its promise" and put the policies in place "as soon as possible", in order to create favourable working and living conditions for the media in both countries.

U.S. State Department confirms

In a statement issued to AP on Nov. 16, the U.S. State Department confirmed their commitment to increasing the validity of visas provided to Chinese journalists to one year.

The State Department added that the U.S. will continue to issue visas for Chinese journalists who are otherwise eligible for the visa under U.S. laws and regulations.

Tit for tat during the Trump era

According to AP, the treatment of journalists has been a source of tension between China and the U.S for over a year.

Back in Feb. 18, 2020, the Trump administration moved to declare five Chinese news agencies -- Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily and The People’s Daily -- as foreign government agencies, the NYT reported.

Then, the Chinese government retaliated by announcing the expulsion of three WSJ reporters who were working in China at the time.

The situation later escalated, when the U.S. government limited the number of Chinese citizens allowed to work for the five Chinese news agencies in the U.S. to 100.

Subsequently, the Chinese authorities expelled U.S. journalists from the Washington Post, the NYT, and the WSJ in retaliation to the U.S.'s restrictions, according to the Washington Post.

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Top image via BBC/Getty Images