THE NEUTRAL ZONE
On Tuesday, the United States’ Department of State ordered that the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas must be closed by Friday. State Department spokesperson Morgan Otagus stated that the decision to close the consulate is to “protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.” It is uncertain if any specific event triggered this decision, however, it has been speculated that the closure could be tied to espionage. Following the announcement of the closure, documents were burned in the consulate’s courtyard.
East Asia policy diplomat David Stilwell identified the Houston consulate as the “epicenter” of the Chinese army’s efforts to advance its warfare advantages by sending students to U.S. universities. Stilwell also stated that Chinese scientific thefts have escalated over the last 6 months and possibly connected to a coronavirus vaccine. Marco Rubio agreed with the decision to close the “spy center” and called the move “long overdue.”
Chinese officials have argued that the closure is unprecedented and have demanded that the U.S. reverse its decision to close the consulate. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that China would take “necessary countermeasures” if the U.S. failed to revoke its decision. Wenbin went on to argue that the U.S. claims of an “imbalance in Sino-US relations” is a typical excuse and “is without grounds.” According to an undisclosed source by Reuters, China has considered “closing the U.S. consulate in the central Chinese city of Wuhan” in retaliation to the Houston closure.
China threatens retaliation after US orders closure of Houston consulate – Fox News – 7/22/2020
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a daily news briefing that the government had been told without warning Tuesday to close the consulate. He said the consulate had been operating normally Tuesday and called the reported move an “unprecedented escalation,” the South China Morning Post reported.
Forced closure of Chinese consulate could cause lasting damage, observers say – South China Morning Post – 7/22/2020
China on Wednesday vowed to retaliate after it was ordered by the United States to close its consulate in Houston, as the nations’ acrimonious dispute took another step towards bubbling over.
U.S. Orders China to Close Houston Consulate, Citing Efforts to Steal Trade Secrets – New York Times – 7/22/2020
The United States has abruptly ordered China to close its diplomatic consulate in Houston by Friday, accusing diplomats of aiding a nationwide pattern of economic espionage and attempted theft of scientific research, as part of a sharp escalation in the Trump administration’s moves against China.
China Burns Documents as It’s Evicted From Houston Consulate by Trump Admin in Dramatic Escalation of Tensions – The Daily Beast – 7/22/2020
On Tuesday night, papers were being burned outside at the embassy as the Chinese prepared to leave. In videos posted online by local media outlets in Houston, fires could be seen in multiple containers, with smoke rising into the sky. Firefighters were not allowed inside the complex.