'Unprecedented escalation': China may shut US consulate in Wuhan

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Jul 22, 2020, 03.52 PM(IST)

In this file photo taken on June 30, 2017, flags of the US and China are placed ahead of a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

No official confirmation has been given by Chinese officials yet, but this is the most likely expected move in a series of diplomatic rows between the two countries

China may shut the United States consulate in the original epicentre of COVID-19 in the country - the central city of Wuhan in Hubei after Washington asked China to shut its consulate in the US city of Houston on Wednesday.

"Unprecedented escalation"

After the order came through, China promised to retaliate. No official confirmation has been given by Chinese officials yet, but this is the most likely expected move in a series of diplomatic rows between the two countries.

Also read: United States may lose ‘cyber domain’ to China, says Senate report

To counter China’s growing presence in the South China Sea, India and the US recently conducted naval exercises. Australia, too joined in later. This comes in after a growing anti-China sentiment across the world, in the light of its recent military excesses along the border with India, in Taiwan, in Tibet, and in the South China Sea.

In the next three days, China is required to shut its Houston consulate. The US cites protection of their intellectual property and information as the key reasons to do so.

China has referred to the move as an “unprecedented escalation”.

Souring relations

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, relations between both the countries have soured. US President Donald Trump, has on multiple occasions blamed China for spreading the virus across the globe. This birthed a number of conspiracies surrounding the virus, with many claiming that it was manufactured in a Wuhan lab, and others suggesting bio-warfare.

After China claimed that US ordered their consulate shut, the US immediately confirmed the closure.

Also read: China's Houston consulate closed to 'protect intellectual property': US

The consulate was "in order to protect American intellectual property and American's private information", State Department’s Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

"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 behaviour," she added.

Recently, the US has been involved in clashes with China in various arenas. It recently claimed that Chinese hackers had been attempting to access sensitive coronavirus vaccine data. It has also launched attacks on the country for enforcing the National Security Law in Hong Kong, for which China is also in a spat with the United Kingdom, which recently suspended its extradition treaty.