Mirroring China, US places notification requirements on Chinese diplomats

Chinese diplomats will be required to tell the State Department in advance of any official meetings with US diplomats, local or municipal officials, and before any visits to colleges or research institutions.
Chinese diplomats will be required to tell the State Department in advance of any official meetings with US diplomats, local or municipal officials, and before any visits to colleges or research institutions.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - The US is placing notification requirements on Chinese diplomats assigned to the United States, mirroring those placed by China on US diplomats in China.

“Unfortunately, in China, US diplomats do not have unfettered access to a range of folks that are important for us to do our job there,” a senior State Department official told journalists. “That includes local and provincial-level officials, academic institutions, research institutes, so on and so forth.”

In contrast, diplomats from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) stationed in the United States are able to take full advantage of the US’ open society to meet with a range of Americans, the official said.

“We’re not looking to reduce those interactions at all,” the official said, insisting that the new requirements do not amount to restrictions, and were intended to be reciprocal.

“We are going to take some actions that will… go some ways toward levelling the playing field,” the official said.

“So starting from today, the State Department is going to be requiring that all of the PRC foreign missions – their embassy and their various consulates around the United States – will have to notify the Department of State in advance of official meetings with state officials, official meetings with local and municipal officials, official visits to educational institutions, and official visits to research institutions.”

“We absolutely value educational and cultural exchange,” the official said. “We absolutely encourage state and local officials, as well as educational and research institutions, to meet with and host foreign officials as they deem appropriate.  We are not requiring that any Chinese official get permission from the State Department to have any of these sorts of meetings.”

“We’re merely asking that they notify us in advance of such meetings,” he said. “That’s different from what happens many times in China, where our diplomats are forced to seek permission and are often denied such permission.”

The onus of the new notification requirement would not be on US parties, the official said. “The full onus will fall on the Chinese consulates and embassy to notify us in advance of meetings.”

 
 
 
 

“This action is a response to what the PRC government does to limit the interactions our diplomats can have in China with Chinese stakeholders,” the official said. “Our goal is to get the Chinese authorities to allow our diplomats in China to engage with provincial and local leaders, Chinese universities, and other educational and research institutes freely, the same way that the Chinese diplomats are able to do here.”

The State Department officials who briefed journalists in a conference call did not specify what measures would be taken against diplomats who did not comply.

But in answer to a question they reiterated that “for… many, many years, there’s a clear gap between the way our US diplomats are able to do their job in China versus the liberties that Chinese diplomats posted here in the United States are able to do their job”.

“What we’re looking to do is impose a little bit of reciprocity,” he said.