U.S. and China flags. U.S. Department of Agriculture on flickr

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.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

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.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Marco Rubio on Twitter, 7/22/2020: #China’s consulate in #Houston is not a diplomatic facility. It is the central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States. Now that building must close & the spies have 72 hours to leave or face arrest. This needed to happen.

Hu Xijin 胡锡进 on Twitter, 7/22/2020: The US asked China to close Consulate General in Houston in 72 hours. This is a crazy move.

Tom Cotton on Twitter, 7/22/2020: Secretary Pompeo’s closure of the consulate is a warranted defense against the Chinese Communist Party’s coordinated spying operations in Houston and across the United States.

Dan Cohen on Twitter, 7/22/2020: The Chinese embassy in Washington DC reports it received bomb threats and blames the US government’s climate of incitement. This is hours after the US ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to close on extremely short notice. Welcome to the new cold war. https://t.co/AOrxae6nuI

Reappropriate on Twitter, 7/22/2020: This consulate closure on the grounds of potential links to espionage is the latest escalation in the increasingly widespread effort to paint China and Chinese / Chinese American people as untrustworthy, disloyal, hostile foreigners who should “go back to where they came from”.

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