Remarks at a U.S. Visa Event
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy Beijing
November 12, 2014
MR. KRITENBRINK: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome. My name is Dan Kritenbrink, and I’m the deputy chief of mission here at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. It is a great honor to have everyone here this afternoon, including members of the press, staff of the Embassy’s consular section, and of course, our group of distinguished visa applicants. Expanding economic cooperation and increasing people-to-people exchanges are key elements of America’s policy toward China. As evidence of our commitment to that goal, today we celebrate the first day in a new era for millions of people who wish to travel between the United States and China.
We are, of course, particularly honored to be joined today by the U.S. Secretary of State, and our boss, Secretary John Kerry. Secretary Kerry will tell us about this exciting new development in our bilateral relationship. So now won’t you please join me in warmly welcoming Secretary of State John Kerry. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Ni hao. And I hope that didn’t need a translation. (Laughter.) This is very exciting for me. I’m really happy to be here. I see a lot of smiling faces. And I think most of them are on the faces of those about to receive their visas.
I’m delighted to be here with Dan Kritenbrink and I thank him for the tremendous work that he is doing as the DCM here in the Embassy. He has mastered the language and he has risen through the ranks of the Department at lightning speed, and – first as a political officer here in Beijing, and as director for the Office for Chinese and Mongolian Affairs in Washington, and now as DCM. Let me say that we’re particularly grateful to Dan and all of the folks at the Embassy, all those of you in the Embassy staff who helped to support the visits of Michelle Obama and also Vice President Biden, who came here for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue; and of course, my own visit earlier in the year with Secretary Lew for the same. So we thank you for the tremendous work you’re doing.
The ambassador as I think you know is escorting the President to the airport, and so that’s the reason that he isn’t here to celebrate this with us. But he is very excited about this program. And I’m very glad he’s going to help make sure the President gets out alright because the sooner the President’s plane gets out of here, the easier it is for my plane (inaudible). (Laughter.)
I want to thank all of the folks who work here at the Embassy first before I say a word about the visas. One of our most sacred, important responsibilities in the State Department is to work hard to show people everywhere who we are and what our values are. And that’s what all of the people who work here do every single day in a large embassy like this or in small posts somewhere in the world – they help people to try to understand who we are, what we believe, and we’re particularly appreciative to all the people locally who come and share the burden of attempting to reach out and touch so many people.
And I say this all the time and I mean it: No matter what rank you are, no matter where you are in the Embassy, whether you’re one year in or months in or you’ve been here for years, everybody is an ambassador. Everybody carries with them the responsibility to be an ambassador for those values and for our country. And every time you go out of the Embassy and you go down An Jia Lou Road, you carry with you those values and the face of America. And by the way, An Jia Lou Road is not named after Angelia Jolie. (Laughter.)
So when you go out and you promote American business in Pudong or right here in Beijing with a company like Xiaomi, or you show people the best of American effort to bring a company to America or to bring a company here, you are really engaged in the best of entrepreneurial spirit. And I want to emphasize how important that is in this globally, totally interconnected world that we are living in and working in and competing in. In this new world and new age that we’re living in, foreign policy is economic policy, and economic policy is foreign policy. And I say this all the time. I want every officer in the State Department to be an economic officer because that’s the world we’re living in.
And that is why what we are doing here today is really so important. This is – visas are a critical part of that interconnected world and high-speed business world that we live in. That is why I’m so proud to announce today that effective immediately – and we mean immediately, when I stop talking (laughter) – we will be issuing the first ten-year visas to Chinese tourists and business men and women on a reciprocal basis. I want to say a special thank you to our consular chief, Chuck Bennett, who’s over here, who’s worked so hard – and the whole consular section – to be able to make this possible.
With this announcement, we are making an important investment in our relationship, U.S.-China. And believe me, this will pay huge dividends for American and Chinese citizens, and it will strengthen both of our economies. Because of this, if you’re one of the 2 million Chinese or American citizens who travel between our countries every year – and that will grow, but if you’re one of those two million now, you will not have to reapply and pay the application fee every year. If you’re a business that operates in both China and the United States, you will be able to travel back and forth and develop your business, interview your employees, invest, travel, do all the things you need to do to grow your business, and you’ll do it with much greater ease, with less burden.
If you’re a businesswoman in Shanghai, for instance, and you need to suddenly go to a business meeting in San Francisco, you don’t have to wait and apply for a visa. You go to the – buy your ticket, go to the airport. (Laughter.) If you’re a grandparent from Chongqing, you don’t have to apply every single year or every time you want to go visit your grandchildren in Boston, for instance.
And I’m proud to say that this is just the latest step that the Obama Administration is taking in order to facilitate travel. Over the last years, we’ve increased staffing, we’ve changed our procedures, we’ve extended our hours, we’ve done enormous efforts in order to be able to make it easier for people to get a visa, to take less time, so that now we’ve kept the wait times for interview appointments in China under one week for the last three years. And most people are in and out of those interviews in less than an hour.
Now, I want to emphasize that visa validity is a two-way street. And that’s why we’re working very hard to make sure that ten-year Chinese visas will also be available within a very short time for people who want to travel to China. But let me emphasize: What I am talking about today, this ten-year proposal from America, is not a one-time deal; it’s not just for a short time, this is here, it’s here to stay. And this is not a reciprocal – it’s a long-term reciprocal arrangement, but when we say it’s here to stay, we mean it. We will issue a ten-year visa to qualified applicants tomorrow, next month, and next year, and that’s our commitment.
So I get to stand up here today and bring you the good news. And that’s my privilege as Secretary of State, but it’s the people behind these windows, and Chuck and his team and people back in Washington who work so hard in order to make this possible. And they’re the ones who will implement it each day and I want everybody here to say thank you to them for their (inaudible). Thank you. (Applause.)
So in a couple of moments we’re going to make history here. We’re going to issue some of the first ten-year visas to Chinese businessmen and women. So those of you who get the visas and all of you folks in the consular section here, you are literally helping to write the next great chapter of the history between the United States and China.
The Chinese have a beautiful saying: (In Chinese.) (Laughter.) “Follow the past, herald the future.” So that’s what brings us here today. And everybody here and millions of people out there, actually one billion-three, have a huge stake in this, as do the 330 million people in the United States of America. This will help to grow our economies, create more jobs, and to bring us together as friends, and I’m very proud to be here today to share in that. Thank you.
So Dan and Chuck, let’s help some businesspeople and create some jobs. (Applause.)