On the 22nd of July, 2020, the US government gave the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas 72 hours to “cease all operations and events.” This move came after allegations that the Chinese Communist Party was using its consulates and embassy in the US to spy on Americans, steal intellectual property, and operate a network of espionage within the US. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the consulate was directed to close “[to] protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.” The State Department has not clarified what, if any, particular incident triggered the US demand to close the consulate or when it made that demand. In a separate statement, the Department of State said that China “has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations” and that those “activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years.”
Although the US State Department did not explicitly give a reason why they were triggered to demand the closure of the consulate in Houston, just recently, the State Department accused China of sponsoring black-hat hackers to try and steal COVID-19 vaccine research. Sino-American relations were tense for over 2 years, the most impactful development in the relations was Trump’s “trade war” with Beijing which hurt more Americans than it was intended to help and although the trade war is being discussed less and less, it is still ongoing.
This move to close the consulate was also a political one. Both politicians in the US and China have pointed the finger at each other during tense times. In the US, politicians have blamed China for not containing the COVID-19 pandemic, have demonized them in the media, have been very critical in the tyrannical overreach of power in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet, have criticized them for trading with North Korea, among other things. China is no different, they have had an anti-American sentiment for decades. When the COVID-19 pandemic grew out of Wuhan, Chinese state media attempted to blame the US Army for creating and spreading it, Chinese schools teach that a “multi-party system is inefficient, bound for government shutdowns, and hurts the people living under that system.” China has also had no problem with Chinese companies stealing American intellectual property, etc.
Beijing retaliated against the US by closing down one of the consulates in China. Many experts were speculating that the consulate in Wuhan would face closure as it has been evacuated when the pandemic started, but Beijing took a different approach to the situation and decided to close the consulate in Chengdu instead. As of now, both consulates are closed and each country has control over the consulate they were hosting.
The situation is very much still developing but Sino-American relations will remain sour for a while.