U.S., China agree to ease restrictions on journalists
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WASHINGTON – The United States and China on Tuesday announced an agreement to ease restrictions on foreign journalists operating in the two countries, tempering a diplomatic showdown that led to the expulsion of some American journalists from China during the last year of the Trump administration.
The deal was first reported by China Daily, a Chinese government-controlled newspaper, and later confirmed by a statement released by the State Department.
Under the deal, made public just a day after President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three news outlets – the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the New York Times – will be allowed to fire journalists. in China, although it is still unclear whether the specific correspondents expelled last year will be allowed to return to work there.
“We are delighted that their correspondents can return to the PRC to continue their important work,” the State Department said in a statement, referring to the People’s Republic of China. “We welcome this progress, but see it just as initial steps. “
The United States, which had limited visas for Chinese journalists to 90 days, will provide one-year visas for foreign journalists, renewable annually. The two countries have agreed to facilitate the entry and exit of journalists without fear of losing the opportunity to return to work.
Journalists from both countries will need to meet standard visa eligibility requirements under the laws of both countries.
U.S. officials have described the deal as the result of months of negotiations aimed at resolving some of the growing tensions between the two superpowers as they maneuver for economic power and public relations superiority around the world.
“We will continue to work to expand access and improve conditions for US and foreign media, and we will continue to advocate for media freedom as a reflection of our democratic values,” the department’s statement said. State.
But it’s not clear whether the deal – which White House aides say was not discussed when Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi met at a virtual summit on Monday – completely cancels the deal. Deportation measures China took against the three newspapers last March, as the coronavirus pandemic was just starting to spread out of that country.
The question is whether veteran journalists from the three U.S. news outlets who were kicked out last year will be able to return to their old rhythms, allowing newspapers to capitalize on their expertise and sources as they continue to document the actions of the Chinese government, business community and society.
Almar Latour, editor of the Journal, said in a statement that “we are encouraged by the announced direction of these negotiations and continue to believe that independent and accurate reporting from China serves our readers and serves China itself. same “.
A Times spokeswoman made no immediate comment on reports of the new journalists’ agreement. Representatives for The Post did not respond to a request for comment.
Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations, said the deal reflected serious efforts by diplomats from both countries to move towards a more viable relationship.
“They were trying to find an area where they could show real progress,” said Schell, former dean of the graduate school of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. “They decided it was a good one.”
China has for years sought to impose restrictions on American journalists who aggressively cover government activities. Chinese authorities have shortened the length of visas for journalists working for US news agencies in an attempt to dissuade journalists from writing reviews of the country for fear of deportation.
But tensions over the issue of journalists escalated in early 2020, as former President Donald J. Trump stepped up his rhetoric about the Chinese origin of the coronavirus and limited the number of Chinese citizens allowed to work in the United States. United for Chinese state-owned enterprises. media organizations which are widely regarded as propaganda bodies.
Two weeks later, China expelled journalists working for the three American newspapers. Mr. Trump’s administration retaliated in early May, limiting Chinese journalists to 90-day visas to work in the United States. Previously, Chinese journalists were given one-year visas that allowed them to leave and return to the United States throughout their stay.
The confrontation over reporters was part of a deterioration in US-China relations during the Trump administration, which clashed with Beijing over tariffs and other economic issues along with repeated condemnations from Mr Trump from the Chinese government regarding the Covid-19 epidemic.
After initially saying that China had worked “very hard to contain the coronavirus,” Mr. Trump then repeatedly used the term “Chinese virus” to describe its origins.
Mr Biden has also taken a hard line with China, but has sought to back down rhetoric among officials. U.S. officials said the virtual summit between the two leaders on Monday was designed in part to ensure that misunderstandings and heated rhetoric do not lead to outright conflict with China.
Mr. Schell, who helped facilitate conversations between State Department officials and leading reporters several months ago to discuss the matter, said Xi’s willingness to agree to the new arrangement could indicate that he understands the importance of the media, even in a country like China.
“They recognize that in order to have any economic relationship, you have to have some kind of journalistic exchange,” he said, adding that such an arrangement between two countries had already been seen.
“During the Cold War, we had such an understanding with Russia,” Schell said. “There was an agreement that the Russians had the same number here and we have the same number there. “
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