July 23, 2020
President Donald Trump is raising the stake internationally. China vowed retaliation on July 22 after the United States forced its trade foe to close its Houston consulate, in one of the biggest threats to diplomatic ties between the two nations in decades, Bloomberg News reports..
The U.S. government gave China three days to close its consulate in America’s fourth-most populous city in an “unprecedented escalation,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Wednesday in Beijing.
According to Bloomberg, the U.S. State Department said it ordered the consulate shut “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” without giving more details. At least two Chinese citizens have been convicted of stealing energy industry trade secrets in Houston in recent years. The consulate is one of five China maintains in the United States, along with its embassy in Washington, D.C.
Asked for specifics on why the consulate was being closed, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo responded with broad remarks about China’s actions on intellectual property, saying it was “costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
“We are setting out clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave and, when they don’t, we’re going to take actions that protect the American people,” Pompeo said at a briefing on Wednesday in Denmark where he was meeting the country’s foreign minister.
“So much has happened so quickly that it’s hard not to feel like this is a cycle of major escalation,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, adding, “To close a consulate on 72-hours notice should be the result only of major infractions by that country and certainly signals a level of diplomatic rancor that is quite intense.”
America has clashed with China over everything from trade and 5G networks to territorial disputes and responsibility for the pandemic, Bloomberg noted. On Tuesday, the Justice Department accused two Chinese hackers of working for Beijing to steal or try to steal terabytes of data, including coronavirus research, from Western companies in 11 nations.
Typically, China would be expected to take similar action against a U.S. consulate. Besides the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China could target consulates in the cities of Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Wuhan.
Research contact: Bloombergnews2