The abrupt move by the United States to close China’s consulate in Houston will backfire, the Chinese embassy in Washington said Wednesday, as it urged the Trump administration to immediately revoke the decision lest it face “legitimate and necessary” responses.
Cai Wei, consul general of China in Houston told the ABC13 TV station that, “I am surprised and angry because we have done nothing wrong.
“I think the US and China are such important countries; we need to be friends. It’s unimaginable for me to see such a cold war between two such big countries. It’s a disaster to two peoples. It’s also a disaster for the whole world.”
Cai also refuted numerous claims about the consulate by the US side, saying that “repeating a lie thousands of times doesn’t make it truth”.
“Some US politicians lied for the so-called ‘political correctness’, while ignoring people’s lives and well-being. In the end, they will harm others as well as themselves. We advise those US politicians to stop playing their tricks as soon as possible.”
In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Washington said: “It is a political provocation unilaterally launched by the US side, which seriously violates international law, basic norms governing international relations and the bilateral consular agreement between China and the US.
“China strongly condemns and firmly opposes such an outrageous and unjustified move which sabotages China-US relations,” it added.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that the closure was “to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information”.
The Chinese embassy said the US accusations are “groundless fabrications” and the excuses cited are “far-fetched and untenable”.
“For the US side, if it is bent on attacking China, it will never be short of excuses,” the embassy said.
Jessica Chen Weiss, a political scientist and associate professor of government at Cornell University, said that unless more evidence is forthcoming, the move “looks like a stepped-up effort to use China as the bogeyman and distract US voters from the Trump administration’s disastrous response to” the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“If the consulate has been engaged in ‘massive illegal spying and influence operations’, why was the announcement so thin on detail?” Weiss asked in a series of tweets posted Wednesday.
“The last thing we need as our country struggles with a once-in-a-century pandemic is an all-out confrontation with China,” she added.
Jon Taylor, a professor and chair of the department of political science and geography at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said the timing of the US move “immediately raises some questions”.
“Unless there is some substantial evidence, this appears to be another effort to ‘look tough’ on China during a US presidential election year,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he had visited the consulate many times during his years in Houston for meetings and to renew visas. He said the consulate is supportive of cultural and educational efforts throughout the South and Southwest.
“It has the distinction of being the first consulate established in the US after the normalization of relations in 1979,” he said.
Charles Foster, the former chairman of the Asia Society Texas Center, where he was for about three decades, and the current chairman of US-China Partnerships in Houston, is one of those who have been instrumental in fostering relations between the US and China.
“I was very surprised and regret this morning to learn the decision to close the Chinese consulate. I believe this will be very harmful to the constructive US-China bilateral relationship,” said Foster.
“This will cause a counterreaction in China — and any further reaction in the US — all leading to steady deterioration of bilateral relations at a time we should be strengthening it.”
David Firestein, president and CEO at the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations, echoed Foster’s view.
“This move takes the relationship to a modern-era low point and ushers in a highly volatile new phase in the bilateral relationship. Given the well-established diplomatic principle of reciprocity, particularly as relates to diplomatic representation, I have a feeling that a US consulate general in China is about to suffer the same fate as the Chinese Consulate General in Houston,” Firestein said.