China retaliates US aggression in Houston by ordering US Chengdu mission closure

US President Donald Trump may order the closure of more Chinese missions.

Credit : AFP/Jiji

In a retaliatory measure, China on Friday revoked the licence issued to the US consulate in Chengdu. The USA on Tuesday asked the Chinese mission in Houston to close in 72 hours alleging that its staff indulged in espionage and violation of US intellectual property rights by China.

US President Donald Trump may order the closure of more Chinese missions.

China has accused staff in US Chengdu mission of interfering in its internal affairs, stated a BBC report. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged that China was "stealing" intellectual property. Hence, they closed the Chinese Houston mission. The Houston move was made after unidentified individuals were filmed burning paper in bins on the consulate’s premises.

The two countries have been at loggerheads over several issues, including the pandemic, the new security law in Hong Kong, human rights violations in Xinjiang also and trade tariffs. China's move follows a speech made by Pompeo at the library of former President Richard Nixon on Thursday. Nixon was instrumental in improving relations with China in 1972.

"Today, China is increasingly authoritarian at home and more aggressive in its hostility to freedom everywhere else," said Pompeo in his speech. "The free world must triumph over this new tyranny," he added.

Justifying its action of closing US Chengdu consulate, Chinese foreign ministry said its staff "interfered in China's internal affairs, and endangered China's security and interests."

Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the US action against their Houston mission was a result of "a hodgepodge of anti-Chinese lies".

He alleged Pompeo's announcement was "filled with ideological bias and a Cold War mentality. The current situation between China and the United States is something China does not want to see, and the US bears all responsibility for that."

Wang did not specify how the US mission staff interfered. His remarks appear to be a tit-for-tat response to the US allegations of spying.

Wang did not issue a deadline to vacate the Chengdu consulate. He said the ministry “has made specific requirements” on the reciprocity principle.

China has asked the US to close its Chengdu consulate till Monday, said Global Times. The Chengdu mission has strategic importance as the US can monitor the situation in the autonomous Tibet region, which has been demanding independence for a long time now.

The US has an interest in Chengdu for exports of cars, machinery and agricultural products.



"The current situation between China and the United States is something China does not want to see, and the responsibility rests entirely with the United States," the foreign ministry said. "We once again urge the US to immediately revoke the erroneous decision to create necessary conditions for the return of bilateral relations to normal," a CNN report quoted the ministry as saying.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the reasons furnished by the US for the Chinese consulate closure were "unbelievably ridiculous". Chunying asked the US to withdraw its "erroneous decision", failing which China would "react with firm countermeasures".

Later, the US arrested three of the four Chinese nationals on the charge of visa fraud for hiding their membership of Chinese armed forces. The FBI has sought custody of the fourth, who is reportedly staying in the Chinese San Francisco consulate. The closure of the foreign diplomatic missions indicates rising tensions between the US and China. In 1962, the Indian consulate in Lhasa, Tibet, was closed after China and India fought a war.

However, experts said the Chengdu move was a calculated move of retaliation. It avoided further flare-ups by not targeting US missions in other major cities, including Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

For the US, Chengdu is important, said former US consul general in Chengdu Jeff Moon. He has a China-focused consultancy, and added, "Because it is the only consulate in western China," where many major US first have a base under China’s major redevelopment strategy.

Peking University’s Centre for International Political Economy director Wang Yong said the Chinese move suggested its response was restrained.

“Chengdu would be an appropriate choice because it reflects the principle of reciprocity but at the same time it shows that China does not want the tension to get completely out of control,” said Wang. “Choosing consulates in cities like Guangzhou and Hong Kong would be too heavy-handed.”