On the morning of 24 July, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the U.S. Embassy in China to close the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, as an apparent retaliation for the U.S. order of closing China’s Houston Consulate.
“The current situation in China-U.S. relations is not what China desires to see, and the U.S. is responsible for all this. We once again urge the U.S. to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track,” said the ministry in a statement released on the same day.
With no signs or warnings, the U.S. abruptly demanded China to shut down its consulate general in Houston within 72 hours, raising tensions in already strained bilateral ties. Calling it a political provocation by the U.S., Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said “such an outrageous and unjustified move” seriously violates international law, basic norms governing international relations and the bilateral consular agreement between China and the U.S.
This unilateral move also shocked the world, as it is so rare and ungracious to demand other countries to shut down a consulate in such a short time. This gesture also shows that the U.S. continues to actively harm China-U.S. relations as it drags bilateral relations into a situation of serious confrontation, forcing China and the U.S into the trap of Cold War.
According to the U.S. State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus, the order was issued to “protect the American intellectual property as well as the private information.” She added that Washington would not tolerate China’s violations of U.S. sovereignty and intimidation of our people and "unfair trade practices” as President Trump stresses fair and reciprocal trade with China. However, all of these excuses and explanations are groundless.
Firstly, Ortagus refused to go into detail about her allegations against China. And people are confused about the connection between the closure of the consulate and the preservation of the American intellectual property and the private information. Does it imply that the consulate is spying? What about the evidence? Considering the U.S. has always been “skilled” at framing other countries with trumped-up charges and failed to present evidence, Ortagus' words totally lack credibility.
Secondly, the accusations of China violating U.S. sovereignty and intimidating American people are also nonsense. Since President Trump took office, he stirred up bilateral tensions but China has always strived to maintain sound and stable bilateral ties, promote multilateralism, and uphold the international order. China’s embassy as well as consulates in the U.S. all strictly adhere to the principle of non-interference into other countries’ domestic affairs, so how could they intimidate American people?
On the opposite, it is the U.S. side which has intimidated and threatened China. The U.S. has imposed restrictions on Chinese diplomatic personnel in the U.S. twice without cause, in June and October last year, according to Wang. Moreover, the U.S. also opened without permission Chinese diplomatic pouches for multiple times, and seized Chinese items for official use. As the U.S. flagrantly drums up stigmatization and fans hatred against China, China’s embassy in the U.S. recently has even received bomb and death threats to Chinese diplomatic missions and personnel in the U.S. And the U.S. embassy in China constantly publishes on its website articles smearing China. “If we compare the two, it is only too evident which side is engaged in interference, infiltration and confrontation, said Wang.
Thirdly, allegations of Chinese “unfair trade practices” are even more unreasonable. Trump has pursued America First policy and cracked down on other countries constantly, even suppressing its allies such as Japan and European Union. Facing the U.S. domination, how can we achieve fair and mutually beneficial trade with the U.S.? Fairness in diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. does not exist. In the U.S., China currently has an embassy and five consulates in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. The U.S. has an embassy in Beijing and five consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Wuhan in mainland China, as well as a consulate in Hong Kong. The U.S. consulates and number of diplomatic personnel in China far exceed those of China in the U.S.
Continuing to suppress China and intensify bilateral confrontations are the real intention behind the U.S. demand for Houston consulate closure. By blaming China, Trump administration intends to deflect responsibility, shift domestic attention, and intensify populism to gain more support for the November presidential election.
Populism was the weapon that contributed to Trump’s victory in presidential election. Today’s American society is dominated by populism while rational voices are under attack. Against such background, Trump, who was behind in recent polls due to the chaos in epidemic control and prevention, is eager to attract support by intensifying populism, and China has been the main target and scapegoat.
However, reality will prove that the risky U.S. moves will gain nothing in return. Since China and the U.S. initiated diplomatic ties in 1972, the development of their ties in nearly half a century showed that two parties would gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Trump administration must have recognized this fact as the sluggish bilateral trade caused harm to both China and the U.S. In 2019, China’s trade volume with all of its major partners expanded except with the U.S., which contracted 10.7 percent and made the U.S. the third-largest trade partner of China from the second. Furthermore, many international issues are difficult for the U.S. to deal with without China’s cooperation, such as the Middle East issues and Korean Peninsula situation.
China will surely take reciprocal measures to fight back against the U.S. malicious move, which will greatly affect two countries in terms of personnel exchanges. That impact will spill over to other areas. The U.S. will ultimately lose more than gain.
Copyedited by Madhusudan Chaubey
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