China orders closure of US consulate in Chengdu

China has ordered the United States to close its consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu, retaliating against Washington’s move earlier this week to shut down the Chinese consulate in the city of Houston.

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday the Chengdu mission’s closure was a “legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable measures by the United States”.

“The current situation in China-US relations is not what China desires to see,” it said in a statement, adding that “the US is responsible for all this”.

“We once again urge the United States to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track.”

It did not say when the consulate must be vacated, but Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Communist Party-owned Global Times newspaper, said the notice period was 72 hours. “It means US Chengdu consulate will be closed Monday morning,” he wrote on Twitter.

The tit-for-tat moves come amid a dramatic escalation in tensions between the world’s two biggest economies. On Tuesday, Washington gave Beijing 72 hours to close its mission in Houston, Texas, alleging the theft of intellectual property and espionage – a claim the Chinese side called “malicious slander”.

Ties have also deteriorated over a number of issues, ranging from the new coronavirus pandemic to Beijing’s trade and business practices, and its territorial claims in the South China Sea to its clampdown in Hong Kong and the far western region of Xinjiang.

Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province, described the latest escalation as “a blow” to bilateral relations.

“There are about 200 staff working at the Chengdu consulate, including about 50 US officials,” she said. “The consulate is also considered quite an important listening post for the US, when it comes to issues such as Tibet and Xinjiang.” aljazeera

Ng Han Guan/ AP Photo