US, China agree to consider commercial flight increase amid diplomatic efforts

Credit: Vytautas Kielaitis /

The United States and China have agreed to consider a significant increase in commercial flights between the two countries with the aim of opening additional channels for communication, US officials said.  

In May 2023 the US Transportation Department (DOT) had previously expressed concerns regarding the severe impact of Chinese travel restrictions and the country’s strict “zero COVID” policy on US-China relations.  

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, there were approximately 350 flights a week between the US and China, compared to just 24 a week currently. The countries will look at increasing this number in a phased manner. 

Currently, the US is among the top destinations for visa applications in China, according to visa service provider VFS Global. 

“We can do better, I fundamentally believe of promoting people-to-people ties,” US diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) at the annual South China Sea conference held on June 28, 2023. “You’ll see that increase hopefully.” 

Kritenbrink also highlighted an existing disparity between the number of Chinese students in the US and American students in China, standing at 300,000 and 350 respectively. Increasing flight connectivity is seen as a step towards addressing this imbalance and encouraging a more balanced exchange of students​. 

Moreover, as demand is high, air tickets for travel between the two countries are extremely expensive.  

The recent agreement was reached during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China between June 18 and 19, 2023. However, during the trip, Washington and Beijing failed to produce a breakthrough in their rivalry but agreed to work on stabilizing relations. 

“There are a number of conversations that are happening at the sub-Cabinet level now about following up on some of the issues that the secretary discussed,” said US State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, as he commented on Blinken’s trip to China during a press briefing on June 27, 2023.  

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