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Obama announces new visa deal for Chinese visitors

President Barack Obama announced a deal Monday to extend visas for Chinese visitors to the United States for up to a decade, insisting he wants China "to do well" despite simmering tensions between the world's two largest economies.

"The United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China," Obama said in a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing.

But he also walked a delicate line between reaching out to Beijing and raising thorny issues, following up the visa announcement with calls for China to free up its markets and tightly controlled exchange rate, and to respect human rights and media freedoms.

The consular deal for both countries' citizens will see student visas extended to five years, with the validity of business and tourist visas stretched out to a decade, up from one year now.

There were 1.8 million Chinese visitors to the US last year, Obama said, contributing $21 billion to the economy and supporting more than 100,000 jobs.

"This agreement could help us more than quadruple those numbers," he said, describing it as an "important breakthrough which will benefit our economies, bring our people together".

"I'm pleased that President Xi (Jinping) has been a partner in getting this done."

China sends nearly 100 million tourists abroad annually and represents a growing and increasingly coveted source of high-spending visitors in destination countries.

One senior US official called the agreement "a really big win" and "a really big deal for the economy".

Obama arrived in China earlier in the day on a week-long trip to press US priorities in the region but wounded from the Democrats' losses in the mid-term elections.

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