Freeing The Press? Up To A Point, Lord Copper

ANOTHER TOKEN OF goodwill passes between Beijing and Washington.

The two countries have agreed to ease the tit-for-tat visa restrictions on the other’s journalists that were imposed during the Trump presidency.

The United States will issue one-year multiple-entry visas for Chinese journalists and initiate a process to address the duration of stay issues. Once that has happened, China will afford equal treatment to American journalists on a one-to-one basis.

The deal was struck ahead of the video meeting between President’s Xi Jinping and Joe Biden on Tuesday morning. However, the negotiations were reportedly over a year in the making and not discussed during the Xi-Biden meeting. However, announcing the deal will burnish the feel-good factor the leaders’ summit generated.

As relations deteriorated during the late Trump years, both countries imposed limitations on journalists’ credentials, visas and durations of stay. US correspondents, who have left the country in some number, will be able to return once access for China’s state-media journalists has been restored, and those that remained to leave and return to the country.

In the spring of 2020, the US administration designated the US operations of nineIn the spring of 2020, the US administration designated the US operations of nine Chinese media as ‘foreign missions’ because Chinese media are state entities under the ultimate control of the Party’s Publicity Department.

These included Xinhua, CCTV’s subsidiary China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily and Hai Tian Development USA (distributor of the People’s Daily in the United States).

Such designation required those outlets to report their staff and property holdings to the US State Department. The Trump administration also capped the number of staff they could employ in the United States.

This led to four US media organisations — the Associated Press, United Press International, CBS and National Public Radio — being told to file with authorities details of their staff, finances, operations and property in China within seven days.

Beijing subsequently expelled several US journalists stationed in China, including those from the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. In response to that, the Trump administration then reduced the renewable one-year single-entry visa permits for Chinese journalists to 90 days.

In the autumn of last year, Washington further designated six Chinese media, including Yicai Global and Jiefang Daily, as substantially owned or effectively controlled by a foreign government.

It is unclear whether the expelled US journalists will be allowed to return or if other correspondents will have to be sent. It is also unclear if the agreement will ease the restrictions on foreign journalists travelling freely and independently within China or ease the hostility shown to the non-US Western press.

The list of strain points in the bilateral relationship remains a lengthy one. However, this agreement at least removes the one item from it that could improve the mutual understanding necessary to bring relief on many of the others.

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Filed under China-U.S., Media

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