New policy ends 10-year visitor visa system and caps visas of Chinese Communist Party members and their immediate families to one month and single entry into US, State Department says.

Tensions have soared between the world's two largest economies on a range of fronts.
Tensions have soared between the world's two largest economies on a range of fronts. (Reuters)

Washington has issued new rules to restrict travel to the US by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members and their families, the State Department said in a statement.

The policy reduces the maximum validity of B1/B2 visitor visas for Party members and their immediate family members from 10 years to 1 month, the statement said on Thursday. The measure was aimed at protecting the nation from the party's "malign influence."

"For decades we allowed the CCP free and unfettered access to US institutions and businesses while these same privileges were never extended freely to US citizens in China," a State Department spokesperson said earlier in a statement quoted by the New York Times.

Applicants had previously been able to obtain 10-year visitor visas. The report estimated the new restrictions could theoretically apply to around 270 million people.

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China slams 'political suppression'

China on Thursday accused critics in the US government of "an escalation of political suppression" against Beijing.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China would "make representations" to the US.

Hua called Washington's approach "totally inconsistent with the US's own interests," and said it would damage America's global image.

It was not clear how the restrictions would be enforced since many members do not play active public roles in the party's institutions.

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Tense political, economic ties

Tensions have soared between the world's two largest economies on a range of fronts and both countries have stepped up travel restrictions on each other's citizens.

Both countries have restricted journalist visas, with Washington curbing the number of Chinese nationals from state-run news outlets in the United States earlier this year.

China responded in March by expelling more than a dozen American journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

The Trump administration has also revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students under a policy introduced in June that accused some of the espionage and stealing intellectual property.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies