The United States has ordered the closure of China’s consulate in the city of Houston within 72 hours, amid accusations of spying.
Beijing has called the move “an unprecedented escalation” that will sabotage relations between the two countries.
In a statement on Wednesday, Morgan Ortagus, spokeswoman for the US Department of State, said Washington directed the consulate’s closure “in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information”.
In Beijing, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry called on the US “to immediately revoke this erroneous decision. Should it insist on going down this wrong path, China will react with firm countermeasures,” he said.
China “strongly condemns” the “outrageous and unjustified move, which will sabotage China-US relations”, he added.
Bomb and death threats have been made against the Chinese embassy in Washington, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday, blaming the US government.
Washington’s order comes as the two countries clash on a wide range of issues, from trade to the coronavirus pandemic and China’s policies in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.
The US has long accused China of stealing intellectual property and technology, an allegation that is one of the core issues in the trade war between the world’s top two economies.
Meanwhile, Beijing has denied the accusation, but will address some of the US complaints in the first phase of a trade deal signed between the two countries in January.
The commitment includes following through on previous pledges to eliminate any pressure for foreign companies to transfer technology to Chinese firms as a condition of market access.
If you must know, there are five Chinese consulates in the US, as well as an embassy in Washington.
The Chinese consulate in Houston was opened in 1979 – the first in the year the US and the People’s Republic of China established diplomatic relations, according to its website.
Besides its embassy in Beijing, the US has five consulates in mainland China, according to its website. They are in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Shenyang.