Tensions between the United States government and China have long been increasing. The friction between the two nations has been on the rise as trade wars grow more strenuous and the politicization of the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump has escalated the situation in a recent decision to close the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas. The move was made after video footage revealed consulate members burning paper in the courtyard, thus hinting at the possibility of infringements of American intellectual property. President Trump swiftly closed the consulate over fears that China was engaging in such behavior.
The decision to close the consulate comes after two men were caught spying on coronavirus vaccine developers in US laboratories. The men were spying on behalf of the Chinese security services taskforce. The infringement of US security has been perceived as a threat to American data and intellectual property. The weariness surrounding China’s interference in US affairs is reinforced by a push to eliminate the popular Chinese video app, TikTok, as the US has uncovered that the app collects data for the Chinese government. There is increasing evidence that the Chinese government has increased its surveillance of the US, measures that have elicited calls for tougher regulations and in the case of Houston, the closing of a consulate.
The Chinese government has responded to the decision to close the consulate with a statement claiming that the move was a “political provocation”, elaborating that it violates international law. The spokesperson for China, Wang Wenbin, has lambasted the decision on the grounds that it has made tensions between the United States and China even worse.
As tensions surmount, the relationship between China and the United States has grown incredibly strained. Chinese officials have pointed out that the United States has relentlessly attacked every aspect of China. Officials point out that the US continues to “shift the blame to China with stigmatization and unwarranted attacks against China’s social system, harasses Chinese diplomatic and consular staff in the US, intimidates and interrogates Chinese students and confiscates their personal electrical devices, even detains them without cause.”
In response, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus has issued a statement reflecting the justification behind the closure: the United States “will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior”.
There is no sign that either side is going to back down, and some speculate that the Chinese government will retaliate soon. Regardless, it is clear that there are no signs of the conflict de-escalating anytime soon.