In retaliation to the closure of its consulate in Houston, China has ordered the United States to close its consulate in Chengdu city of the country.
China has ordered the United States to close its consulate in Chengdu, southwestern Chinese province, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday. The move was a response to the Donald Trump administration’s order this week for Beijing to close its consulate in Houston.
The analysts in China have termed the action as “an equivalent and reciprocal countermeasure”, days after Washington abruptly ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston within 72 hours, a decision considered as a grave violation of international law and the basic norms governing international relations.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China informed the US Embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the US Consulate General in Chengdu,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
Ratcheting up the diplomatic conflict between the two countries, the Chinese foreign ministry said, in a statement that it has conveyed specific requirements on the ceasing of all operations and events by the Consulate General.
“The measure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the United States,” said a foreign ministry statement.
“The current situation in Chinese-U.S. relations is not what China desires to see. The United States is responsible for all this,” the ministry said. “We once again urge the United States to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track.”
Alleging Chinese agents tried to steal data from facilities in Texas including the Texas A&M medical system, the United States ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, a decision which has escalated the growing tensions between the world’s largest economies following the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
The ministry on Thursday rejected the allegations as “malicious slander” and warned the Houston consulate’s closure was “breaking down the bridge of friendship” between the two countries.
The decision to close the Huston consulate has come as Donald Trump has continued to blame China for the coronavirus outbreak in the US, where cases have soared. The United States has been at the top of the coronavirus case charts for a few months now.
Donald Trump himself said more closures could be coming if China doesn’t change its behavior. “It’s always possible,” Donald Trump told reporters at the White House.
The United States has an embassy in Beijing and consulates in five other mainland cities – Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang and Wuhan. It also has a consulate in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory.
US CONSULATE IN CHENGDU
Some speculation had earlier emerged that China might close down US Consulate General in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, as retaliation for the closure of China’s Consulate General in Houston. However, it would have been an underestimation of China’s will in taking “equivalent and reciprocal countermeasure”, according to observers.
As staff has not returned to the Wuhan consulate, its closure would not be equivalent to US bullying and extreme pressuring tactics and would be seen as a gesture of showing weakness to the US side.
Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times that choosing the US consulate in Chengdu is an equivalent and reciprocal countermeasure as the consulate covers the consular services among the Southwest region of China and its number of employees is almost equal to that of China’s consulate in Houston.
“The US is unlikely to make further provocations to close more Chinese diplomatic missions. Choosing the consulate in Houston could help the Trump administration distract the public’s attention to the worsening coronavirus epidemic situation in Texas, a traditional ‘red state,’ which the Republican party can’t afford to lose,” he said.
But other Chinese consulates in the US are located in cities like New York and San Francisco, which are in the “blue states” that the Republicans can’t win, so it would be meaningless for Trump to close more as it won’t help him win the election, Lü said.
If the US continues its crazy moves, China can play another card to retaliate; that is, expelling those so-called “diplomats” from the US who are actually CIA agents located in China, especially those in Hong Kong, Lü noted, adding that this could make the US really feel the pain as its intelligence networks in China, which it has spent decades trying to build, will be closed down.
The US consulate in Chengdu, covering consul affairs in several provinces and regions including Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, had attracted public attention for several occasions.
It was opened in October 1985 by former US President George Bush and had been besieged by crowds to protest the US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999.
The consulate in 2012 also became a scene for the incident concerning Wang Lijun, former vice mayor and police chief of Southwest China’s Chongqing, who defected and entered the consulate but later left on his own volition.