Ever since China flung open its doors in 1978, many Chinese have wanted to visit the United States. There’s a great deal of fascination with the world’s greatest superpower. But unfortunately, the door has almost always been closed. Initially by tight Chinese standards that restricted who could have access to a passport, but over the past decade, by tight American visa standards.
This issue has been discussed before (Washington Post article, 2006), although not many in the West are fully aware how difficult the visa issue has been in years past. The only Chinese who’ve entered the United States in the last two decades have been here to study, work, or to visit family. And even in these cases, after presenting an entire library of supporting documents to an often hostile consulate officer, a significant percentage (majority?) are denied visas for no obvious reason. It’s ironic to me that even as the United States government funds dissident groups in China in an attempt to spread the word on democracy, it keeps out hundreds of thousands of average Chinese willing to pay for the privilege of visiting.
But China’s economic growth has finally led to a change. Starting this fall, Chinese tourists will be given the opportunity to visit in groups. Chinese tourists will still have to appear at consulates for a face-to-face interview, but the indication is that visas will now be granted to the vast majority of qualified applicants.
Below is an article (文章) with a few early details:
Today, the first two tour groups headed for the United States left from Shanghai’s Pudong airport; the 79 members of these groups are about to begin a 10-day tour of the United States. The first set of tour groups to the United States are separately organized in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou; nearly 240 people are expected to participate.
Related officials have expressed that opening American tourism to Chinese tourists is a major achievement of the Second Sino-American Strategic Economic Dialogue. So, since these Chinese tourists are headed to America during the Fourth Strategic Dialogue, there’s a possibility officials will use the welcoming ceremony to announce new agreements on the subject.
In the Shanghai group, other than one individual who was refused, the other 79 visitors were successful in applying for a US visa. The price set for the trip is 19800 RMB (~3100 USD), and includes both American coasts. The travelers will fly from Shanghai to San Francisco, where they will visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and other famous tourist sites. On the 19th, the Shanghai group will travel to Washington DC and join the other two groups at a welcoming ceremony arranged by the United States Commerce Department, and representatives of the American travel industry.