Upon the start of the one-year countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China is confident that foreign media will have better access to reporting on the Games and China itself.
"We look forward to receiving journalists from across the world in Beijing in 2008. I am sure the foreign press in China will enjoy an even better working environment and have more access to information in the future," Liu Jianchao, director-general of the Information Department of the Foreign Ministry, told press in an interview recently.
"We are encouraged to see an increasing number of reports by foreign journalists, which now cover every aspect of our society," he said, "We are also encouraged to see that the new regulations have been widely welcomed and followed by foreign journalists, either staying in, or just making a brief visit to, China."
Liu was referring to a set of regulations which took effect on January 1, named the Regulations on Reporting Activities in China by Foreign Journalists during the Beijing Olympic Games and the Preparatory Period.
The regulations said foreign media professionals enjoy wide and free access to report from China, and they can do interviews as long as they get the permission of interviewees.
"China has followed up on its pledge to facilitate the work of foreign journalists in China," Liu stressed, saying foreign media have enjoyed greater access compared with the time before the releasing of the regulations.
He listed some examples of efforts to ensure "overall and accurate" implementation of the new regulations.
China Customs has simplified procedures to enable foreign journalists clear broadcasting equipment faster than before.
All Chinese embassies and consulates have speeded up visas applications.
Many departments in both central and local governments have set up spokesperson systems, which give quicker response and more information to journalists' enquiries.
The Information Department of the Foreign Ministry set up a round-the-clock hotline answering questions from foreign journalists, Liu added. "We are trying to help them at the earliest time, even at midnight," he said.
"The regulations have helped create a better environment for foreign journalists to cover their stories in China in a more comprehensive, objective and balanced way and enable their audiences and readers to understand what is happening in China," Liu said.
He said there has been a sharp increase of resident foreign correspondents in China since the year's start, saying there are now 705 resident foreign journalists from 351 media organizations based in 53 countries, compared to 606, 315 and 49 seven months ago, and further more, some 2,060 foreign journalists came to China on reporting tours.
Liu also stressed the difficulties in implementing the regulations. "It's not easy to enact a new legal document," he said, "We find it a sweating job to set up coordination networks and make clarifications to the grassroots across a country as big as China."
"The regulations' full implementation needs close coordination among different government bodies and it takes time for local governments and organizations to fully understand the terms of the regulations," he said.
Liu noted that while foreign media workers have the freedom to cover China, they must abide by the Chinese laws and live up to professional standards.
He advised foreign journalists to establish trust and win the confidence of the Chinese side, saying that will help Chinese people get used to being interviewed by foreign media.
Liu also expressed his hope that communication should work both ways. "We are listening to the foreign media, therefore, at the same time, I hope they also listen to us so that China can be reported in a more balanced and objective way," he said.