China and the U.S. Each Have Ordered One Another to Close Down a Consulate
Over the past few days, there have been growing tensions between the United States and China as the White House continues to put diplomatic pressure on the country. On the 22nd of June, the United States government ordered the closing of a Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas after Houston Police stated that they respond to reports of smoke in a courtyard just outside of the consulate. In videos that were circulated and shared online by anonymous sources, officials of the Chinese government could be seen within the compound burning large stacks of paper that have been alleged to be government documents. While no official cause has been listening for the consulate’s closure, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus stated that it had to be closed, “...to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.” Chinese state media sources stated that the consulate had been given 72 hours to be evacuated, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry referred to this incident as an “unprecedented escalation”.
This is another chapter in a long series of deescalating relations between the United States and China. In addition to increased sparring over consulates, other issues such as an ongoing trade war, the coronavirus pandemic and the global response to it, and the United States’ criticism of China’s handling of human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang’s religious minorities. Officials within the State Department have suggested that over the past few decades, China has been engaged in large-scale illegal spying and influence operations that have only recently increased in scale and scope. In the same week that the Chinese consulate has been closed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Europe to encourage leaders to be more critical of Beijing’s foreign policies and their treatment of government dissidents. Pompeo has not made any statements of the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston.
It was only a few days later that the Chinese government ordered the closing of a United States consulate in Chengdu, which the United States confirmed on the 26th of June that it had been closed down. No further information is available at this time for the reasoning of the closing of the consulate by either the Chinese or United States government. It was only after this event that the Department of Justice had arrested two Chinese nationals who allegedly attempted to hack computer systems owned by the United States government regarding COVID-19 research.