China orders closure of US consulate in Chengdu

Al Jazeera

Beijing says move is a ‘legitimate and necessary response’ to Washington’s order to close Chinese consulate in Houston.30 minutes ago

Wang Wenbin says 'malicious slander' is behind US order to close Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas [Ng Han Guan/ AP Photo]
Wang Wenbin says ‘malicious slander’ is behind US order to close Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas [Ng Han Guan/ AP Photo]

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China has ordered the United States to close its consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu, retaliating against Washington’s move earlier this week to shut down the Chinese consulate in the Texas city of Houston.

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that the Chengdu mission’s closure was a “legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable measures by the United States”. 

“The current situation in China-US relations is not what China desires to see,” it said in a statement, adding that “the US is responsible for all this”. 

“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.”

The tit-for-tat moves come amid a dramatic escalation in tensions between the world’s two biggest economies. On Tuesday, Washington gave Beijing 72 hours to close its mission in Houston alleging the theft of intellectual property and espionage – a claim the Chinese side called “malicious slander”. 

Ties have also deteriorated over a number of issues, ranging from the new coronavirus pandemic to Beijing’s trade and business practices, and from its territorial claims in the South China Sea to its clampdown in Hong Kong and the far western region of Xinjiang. 

Have US-China relations soured to the point of no return? | Inside Story (25:26)

Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Wuhan in China’s Hubei province, described Beijing’s Friday order as “a blow” to bilateral relations.

“There are about 200 staff working at the Chengdu consulate, including about 50 US officials,” she said. “The consulate is also considered quite an important listening post for the US, when it comes to issues such as Tibet and Xinjiang. And once its done, it will be extremely difficult to reverse.”

‘Frankenstein’

Meanwhile, in a major speech on Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took fresh aim at Beijing, saying Washington and its allies must use “more creative and assertive ways” to press the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways.

Speaking at the Nixon Library in President Richard Nixon’s birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, Pompeo said that the former US leader’s worry about what he had done by opening the world to China’s Communist Party in the 1970s had been prophetic.

“President Nixon once said he feared he had created a ‘Frankenstein’ by opening the world to the CCP,” Pompeo said. “And here we are.”

“The truth is that our policies – and those of other free nations – resurrected China’s failing economy, only to see Beijing bite the international hands that were feeding it,” he continued.

“The freedom-loving nations of the world must induce China to change … in more creative and assertive ways, because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity.”

Pompeo said “securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time” and said the US was perfectly positioned to lead it.

Also on Thursday, the US Justice Department said it believes the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco is harbouring a Chinese researcher, Tang Juan, who is accused of lying about her background in the Communist Party’s military wing on a visa application.

The department announced criminal charges of visa fraud against Tang and three other Chinese researchers. The Justice Department said Tang lied on a visa application last October as she made plans to work at the University of California, Davis, and again during an FBI interview months later.

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