The United States and China are easing visa restrictions for suppliers after the Biden-X meeting

The agreement concerns one source of controversy in tense bilateral relations after a long virtual meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping on Monday.

Under the agreement, governments will extend the validity of supplier visas to one year from the current three months. The authorities will also make such visas valid for multiple entries, allowing journalists to travel internationally.

The People’s Republic of China has pledged to allow American journalists already in the country “free to leave and return, something they had not previously been able to do,” a U.S. State Department official said Tuesday. “We’re going to facilitate a similar treatment.”

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said China would lift its visa ban once the United States did so.

“We hope that the United States will honor its commitment and implement appropriate measures and policies as soon as possible,” Zhao said at a news conference in Beijing. “This result of hard work is in the interests of the media on both sides and must be cherished.”

The parties have also promised to continue issuing new supplier visas. The process came to a halt largely after the Chinese government expelled numerous American journalists in early 2020. Beijing demanded retaliation after the U.S. branch of the Chinese state media was named by former President Trump’s administration. outlets as “foreign embassies” and limited the number of Chinese suppliers working in the United States to these outlets.

The American news organizations affected by the Chinese deportations were the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

“We have continued a close dialogue with the relevant offices facing staff shortages, and we are pleased that their correspondents will be able to return to China to continue their important work,” said a U.S. State Department official. It is unclear whether the expelled suppliers will be able to return or whether a new group of suppliers will be allowed to enter China.

“We are pleased with this progress, but we simply consider it a first step,” the U.S. official added. “We will continue to work to expand access to and improve conditions for the U.S. and other foreign media, and we will continue to defend media freedom as a reflection of our democratic values.”

The New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger said in a statement on Wednesday that the company welcomes “all efforts by the Chinese and U.S. governments to enable journalists to do important public information work.”

“We believe both countries will benefit from freer access to news and information about each other,” he said. “And we hope that these first steps will be followed by further steps to ensure that independent news organizations can provide free and solid news coverage from within China.”

Almar Latour, publisher of The Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones & Co., said they are encouraged by the stated direction of these talks and continue to believe that independent, accurate reporting within China will serve our readers and China itself. “

The Washington Post did not respond to the request for comment.

Chinese state media were the first to report on the supplier visa agreement. It came as a surprise when a senior official in the Biden administration told reporters after the executive meeting that this issue did not come up during their discussion.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Beijing described the deal on Wednesday as a result of pressure from U.S. officials on Chinese colleagues over media access and visa issues “through work-level channels in recent months.”

– CNN’s Beijing office participated in the preparation of this report.

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