Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t had the easiest time during his state visit to China. Not only has he had to grapple with Chinese leaders over airspace being contested with Japan, he is now taking China to task about freedom of the press. Recently China has not only been blocking the websites of Western news agencies, but Chinese officials have declined to renew the visas of over two dozen American reporters in China.
“Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences,” Biden said in a surprising public rebuke of Chinese practices. China, once enamored with foreign journalists reporting on the rising power of China, have become less enthralled with the Western news media as they’ve covered stories about human rights abuses, corruption among Communist leaders, and the contentious issue of Tibet.
It’s difficult to predict how China will respond to Biden’s comments. The United States has few ways in which to pressure (or punish China) in the matter, and apparently none of them are being seriously explored. Unless the status quo changes, many of the key foreign reporters in China will be forced to leave–and with their departure, an important source of information about China will be silenced, both for the Chinese themselves and for the world.