Politics

China orders US to shut Chengdu consulate in Houston tit-for-tat

By Jesús Centeno

Beijing, July 24 (efe-epa).- China on Friday ordered the United States to close its consulate in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu in retaliation for the recent closing order of the Chinese mission in the US city of Houston.

This marked the worst diplomatic crisis between the two countries since the establishment of ties between them in 1979.

The move comes a day after the US forced China to close its Houston consulate amid fresh spying charges.

“This countermeasure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified action by the United States to close our consulate in Houston. The relationship between the two countries is not what China would like, but Washington is responsible for it,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

This response is “in line with international law, the basic rules that govern international relations and diplomatic practices,” according to the ministry, which claimed that Washington was the one to break all rules.

The ministry informed the US Embassy of its decision to “revoke consent for the establishment and implementation of the American Consulate in Chengdu”, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, and demanded “the cessation of all its operations and events”.

On Thursday, China denied that its consulate in Houston, Texas, had stolen intellectual property or information from US companies, amid new espionage accusations.

Washington gave Beijing 72 hours on Wednesday to close its consulate to “protect American intellectual property and the private information of its citizens.”

“We again ask the United States to retract its erroneous decision and create the necessary conditions to return relations to the path of normality,” the Chinese foreign ministry statement said.

Later, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said US diplomats in Chengdu were engaged in activities not consistent with their official mission, and that China had made multiple complaints regarding the issue in the past.

The Chengdu consulate was inaugurated in 1985 by former President George HW Bush and employs some 200 people, 150 of them local workers.

Wang also responded to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo harsh comments on Thursday against Beijing.

Pompeo had said China had not met American expectations and rejected the supremacy of the Communist Party of China as the future.

The spokesperson said Pompeo ignored facts and that his speech showed a cold war mentality and was made up of lies.

According to Beijing, China is the victim and must defend itself against the attacks of the US, and that it posed no threat to the world as it never sought expansion or hegemony.

Wang further alleged that Pompeo’s words were merely an attempt to divert the attention of the American people from their domestic affairs.

The current situation marks a further deterioration in relations between the two countries, following mutual accusations regarding the origin and management of the coronavirus, besides tensions related to technological and trade conflict, the new security law in Hong Kong and the human rights situation of Muslim minorities in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province.

Chinese experts believe that escalating the “cold war mentality” was an attempt by people like Pompeo to set the tone for the next US administration, leading it to continue Washington’s aggressive policy towards China.

“It is unrealistic and naive for US politicians like Pompeo to think they can create international allies for a new Cold War against China,” Sun Chenghao, an assistant research professor at the Institute of American Studies under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the official Global Times newspaper.

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