U.S. Orders Closure of Chinese Consulate in Houston

Eviction on short notice . . . 

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston today, with a deadline of this Friday. According to the U.S. State Department, the decision will “protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.” The move follows the U.S. Justice Department’s indictment of two Chinese individuals for allegedly working with the Chinese Ministry of State Security to hack into U.S. companies developing COVID-19 vaccines, testing technology, and treatments. Consulate staff have reportedly been told to leave by 4 p.m. Friday and were seen burning documents in the courtyard on Tuesday night. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has pledged a firm response.

Good cop, bad cop?

The eviction notice comes amid a U.S. push for a global anti-China coalition announced on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters during his visit to the U.K. this week, U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo said that “we want to see every nation who understands freedom and democracy . . . to understand this threat that the Chinese Communist Party is posing to them.” Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed his hope Tuesday of visiting China by the end of the year to enhance co-operation on issues of mutual interest and to improve crisis communications.

Growing tension between the two largest economies . . .

In the last few months, tensions between the U.S. and China have been growing, and the two powers have clashed on issues ranging from Hong Kong and Xinjiang to allegations of espionage targeting COVID-19 research and Huawei’s 5G technology. The rising friction coincides with increased military activities in the South China Sea. Canada, struggling with its own Huawei problems, has yet to adopt any hardline position on China. America’s latest move to push for an anti-China coalition, however, is yet another sign of growing pressure to pick a side in a feud between the world’s two largest economies.