USA and China Reach Historic Agreements Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

While there was a lot of joking around in Beijing last week about the “APEC blue” sky, big things happened behind closed doors at the conference – especially between the US and China. Barack Obama and Xi Jinping made a couple of historic agreements under the temporarily clear blue Beijing sky in what many are saying is a huge step forward for US-China relations. Let’s take a closer look at the two deals that were struck:

Image from U.S. Embassy the Hague on

Image from U.S. Embassy the Hague on

Carbon Emissions to be Cut

The world’s two largest economies and two largest producers of carbon emissions have come to an agreement many deemed impossible. The United States has agreed to reduce carbon emissions by 26-28% of 2005 levels by the year 2025, and China has said it will peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and also increase their use of non-fossil fuels to 20% by the same year. Without Beijing and Washington, such agreements from other countries are highly unlikely. Hopefully, more nations will join in the fight against climate change after seeing China and the US reaching an historic deal. To quote President Obama – “We hope to encourage all major economies to be ambitious — all countries, developing and developed — to work across some of the old divides, so we can conclude a strong global climate agreement next year.” Of course, this will be a huge political battle for the President, as members of the GOP have already vowed to fight this deal. It’ll be no easy task in China, either, where the rush to modernization makes such a drastic change seem difficult. Whatever happens, the fact that these two countries were able to come to an agreement – after months of discussion – leaves many hopeful for the future.

New Visa Policy

In the past, it hasn’t exactly been easy for Americans to travel to China or vice versa. The visa application is time-consuming and expensive, and previously issued visas maxed out at one year. For people who frequently travel to China and for exchange students, this has meant the need to get a new visa every single year. To do so, you either need to go to your local consulate – which could be a long trip in and of itself – or pay a hefty fee to an agent to do it for you. It’s the same for Chinese trying to come to the US, and not surprisingly this has deterred many people on either side from ever traveling between the two counties. Potential travelers to the US need to travel to the embassy in Beijing for an in-person interview, something that is just not possible for most people. Around 100 million Chinese people traveled last year, but only 2% of those tourists visited the United States. The potential boom in tourism is expected to generate massive economic growth and create thousands of jobs in the years to come. It will also be much easier for Chinese to come and do business in the US or study. Sending their children to an American university is the dream of many Chinese parents, and some fear that this may cause an even greater “brain drain” in the Middle Kingdom. Americans will now be able to get business and tourist visas valid for up to 10 years, and students will be able to get 5-year visas. I’m personally thrilled by the idea that my next visa could and should be valid until 2024, as I’m planning on moving out of China next year but would still love the ability to come back to visit and travel in the years to come.

Practice your Chinese while reading about the new visa agreement with this great study guide from my old school, Tailor Made Chinese.

It’s obvious that the US and China are going to have to work together on the many important issues of our time moving forward. While the two countries have their fair share of disagreements and differences, progress such as the emissions cuts and new visa policy should be celebrated and welcomed on both sides.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.

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