Houston Consulate Closed Over Chinese Spying

Flag of the People's Republic of China. Image by 古水.

The United States has closed China’s Houston consulate, identifying it as a focal point for Chinese spying efforts in the United States. Little to no warning was given for the closure, but local diplomats were given 72 hours to relocate.

“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. President Trump insists on fairness and reciprocity in U.S.-China relations. We have directed the closure of PRC Consulate General Houston, in order to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information.”

Morgan Ortagus, U.S. State Department spokesman

The Houston consulate was one of only five, with the others being in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Local news agencies provided video of police and fire officials responding to the scene after large quantities of documents were burned.

In response, China has ordered the immediate closure of the US Consulate in Chengdu, which will greatly diminish US monitoring efforts in Tibet. It was one of only five American consulates in China.

As yet no specific information has been provided regarding the spying allegations, but the allegations are completely reasonable. Most foreign consulates are used as centers for espionage operations for their respective countries; all monitoring done of foreign activities beyond simple reliance on the news and official government releases is a basic form of spying.

The questions at play here should not be whether China was spying, but rather what the magnitude of that spying was; if there was any active operation which was particularly successful which could not be more obliquely stopped; whether a message needed to be sent to China or another country; whether there was a time-sensitive element to the closure; and whether there was any specific importance to the Houston location.

All of those questions may have completely valid answers. China is a foreign enemy with aspirations of world dominance, aspirations which have been greatly fueled by Trump’s repeated attacks on free trade and his military retreat throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Aggressive espionage actions are entirely plausible from them, particularly if they believe they’ve had an opportunity to be unusually successful over the past four years due to a haphazardly staffed and inexperienced State Department and those successes may be curtailed with the removal of Trump.

On the other hand, the decision to close the consulate is questionable as Houston rages into a covid-19 hot spot, Texas is shifting toward swing state status and Trump has been shown to have capitulated repeatedly to China on key issues. It is entirely plausible that this move is primarily political in nature, an attempt to use a healthy distrust of China as a rallying point for the President’s base while conditioning them to ignore how much China has gained during Trump’s term – whether through ineptitude or simple corruption.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.