China and US to liberalize media rules?

China and the United States will ease restrictions on journalist visas to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the countries’ leaders said after meeting for dinner this week.

In a statement published online Thursday night, US Vice President Joseph Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping “agreed on broad principles” to maintain “a more open and free society” and “preserve healthy, steady and predictable relations.”

While Xinhua — China’s state-run news agency — didn’t specify which of the world’s more than 60 national press freedoms were cited, the timing of the statement — which comes after last week’s historic meeting between President Xi and US President Barack Obama in Beijing — seems to suggest the two countries are moving away from a policy of full-on censorship.

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Following US Secretary of State John Kerry’s state visit to China this week, the US State Department has described the meeting between Biden and Xi as an attempt to “make a difference in the relationship.”

“It goes beyond the formalities of the dinner and gets to the concrete issues of what we are seeking to change,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

“You should not expect that every specific request that gets made would be met,” he added. “We’re going to see where that ends up.”

US and China discuss “novel opportunities”

Leaders from the two nations are also expected to discuss “novel opportunities to conduct business” and “the deepening of cooperation” after the dinner, the Xinhua report added.

It marks the first instance of the two nations to discuss improved “public diplomacy” following Xi’s meeting with Obama in Beijing last week.

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The United States has long exerted strict control over access to media, including bloggers and citizens in China who use the Internet as their primary source of news.

Washington has been monitoring such moves from Beijing, as private Internet users in China — who have far less access to the Internet than the largely state-controlled public — have taken matters into their own hands to disseminate information abroad.

However, the US says it continues to respect and uphold the right of its citizens to an independent press and views media freedom as an essential element of “independent, pluralistic societies.”

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