China orders closure of US consulate in Chengdu in tit-for-tat move

The President of United States, Donald Trump and the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping
EJ
Emeh Joy

China has ordered for the closure of the United States consulate in the south-western city of Chengdu in a bid to get back at the US in the escalated strife between the two great nations.

China said the movement was a "necessary response" to the United States which had earlier in the week ordered China to close its consulate in Houston.

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said the decision taken by the US was because China was "stealing" intellectual property.

There have been increased tension between the two nations over several major issues. There have been repeated clashes between Trump's administration and Beijing over trade and the COVID-19 pandemic as well as China's imposition of new controversial security law in Hong Kong.

China's move to close the consulate came hours after Pompei used a serious tone in a speech on Thursday at the library of the former President, Richard Nixon whose visit to China in 1972 caused a significant increase in relations between the two countries.

US consulate in Chengdu

"Today, China is increasingly authoritarian at home and more aggressive in its hostility to freedom everywhere else. The free world must triumph over this new tyranny", Pompei said.

What did China say about the US consulate closure?

China's foreign ministry said the closure was a "legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable actions taken by the United States".

It also said, "The current situation between China and the United States is something China does not want to see, and the US bears all responsibility for that".

China has given the US a deadline (Monday) to close the consulate in Chengdu according to China's Global Times.

The consulate was established in 1985 and currently has more than 200 staff with 150 hired locally. It is considered strategically important as it allows the US to gather information on the autonomous region of Tibet where there has been long-time pressure for independence.

As a city with growing industries and service sectors, Chengdu is regarded by the US as offering opportunities for exports of agricultural products, machinery and cars.

Map of China showing the cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Tibet

Why the US ordered for the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston

The US government on Tuesday ordered that China closes its consulate in Houston Texas by Friday.

The move reportedly came after unidentified individuals were filmed burning paper in bins in the building's courtyard.

Mr Pompei had accused China of stealing "not just American intellectual property....but European intellectual [property too...costing hundreds of thousands of jobs".

He added, "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".

The China consulate in Houston was one of the five Chinese consulates in the US, along with the embassy in Washington DC. It is not clear why the US picked on that particular consulate.

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman said the reasons the US gave for closing the consulate were "unbelievably ridiculous".

Hua Chunying had urged the United States to reverse the "erroneous decision" or China would "react with firm countermeasures".

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