On July 24, The United States closed the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David R. Stilwell said the consulate was the command center for Beijing to develop students and spies and to gather economic and military intelligence.
Recently, Cai Wei, China’s Consul General in Houston, along with two other Chinese diplomats brought a few passengers to the boarding gate of a special flight that the Chinese government arranged for Chinese citizens at the Houston airport. However, the birthdate on one of the traveler’ ID cards was incorrect.
On July 21, the Chinese staff started burning things inside the consulate. The flames and smoke from the fires was visible from outside. Firefighters were called to come to the scene, but the consulate didn’t let them in.
Beijing closed the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, in retaliation.
However, Huanqiu (the Global Times), a hawkish state-controlled media with a strong anti-America attitude, published an article on July 24, showing a softer tone.
It quoted from Lv Xiang, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, that from the perspective of confronting China, it is not impossible for the U.S. to close more Chinese consulates (e.g. the San Francisco Consulate). Beijing can consider responding by cutting down the number of U.S. diplomatic staff, especially the staff doing intelligence work in Hong Kong.
However, the article did not suggest closing another U.S. consulate as a reciprocal countermeasure.
1. BBC, July 22, 2020
2. Huanqiu, July 24, 2020