Tensions between the United States and China have significantly escalated after the Trump administration recently forced a Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas to shutdown.
The U.S. State Department officially ordered the closure of the consulate on July 21st, making the staff in the consulate immediately respond by burning and destroying the consulate’s classified documents. By July 24th, U.S officials raided the consulate and forced their way in after most of the staff had already vacated the facility.
The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has defended this decision by claiming the consulate to be a “hub of spying and intellectual property theft” for the Chinese government. The action also found fervent support amongst Republican Senators, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who echoed the concerns about spying and claimed that “forcing [the consulate] to close was long overdue.” The U.S. State Department has specifically accused the consulate personnel of attempting to spy on and intercept medical, scientific, and pharmaceutical research from major U.S medical facilities in Houston, such as the Texas A&M medical system and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
The Chinese government has adamantly denied these accusations that any spying activities were taking place, and have referred to the allegations as “malicious slander.” They have also maintained that the closure was a clear violation of international law based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the China-U.S Consular treaty.
Because of this, the Chinese government has threatened retaliatory measures against the American consulate in China, some of which have already commenced. In Chengdu, China, the Chinese government forced the closure of a U.S embassy and ordered all personnel to leave China immediately. China’s foreign ministry claimed that the action was a “legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act of the United States,” however, the Chinese goverment still continue to urge “the United States to retract its decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track.”
However, as the two countries continue to increase their hostility to one another, bringing the U.S-China relationship to a normal seems more difficult than ever before. Earlier this month, the U.S Department of Justice issued an indictment on two Chinese nationals from the Ministry of State Security who were accused of trying to hack into the American databases to obtain information on potential vaccine data for COVID-19 research. Additionally, on the same day of the consulate closure in Houston, U.S Marshalls in San Francisco arrested and jailed a Chinese researcher from the UC Davis Department of Radiation Oncology for allegedly concealing her ties with the Chinese military.
Following these incidents, the Trump administration has continued to threaten the closure of other Chinese diplomatic facilities in the U.S, such as the Chinese consulates in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C.. Any further closures of these Chinese facilities in the U.S could also provoke China to close another U.S embassies in their country, which are currently located in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Shenyang.
This increased hostility comes at a time when tensions between the U.S. and China were already at an all-time high, following the U.S-China trade war, the mass protests in Hong Kong, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump administration has also recently escalated its aggressive rhetoric towards China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O’ Brien, and Attorney General William Barr all holding groundbreaking speeches in which they called for the end of “engagement” with the Chinese Communist Party, which has been the American policy of the towards China since President Nixon administration. This departure from a long-time policy towards China plunges the relationship between the two countries into uncertainty, with the potential for further conflicts.
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