mcloudy.png
Tuesday August 4th, 2020 9:39AM

US, China consulate closures deal losses to both nations

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — In shutting each other’s consulates, the United States and China have done more than strike symbolic blows in their escalating feud. They’ve also dimmed each other’s ability to observe — and to spy on — critical regions of their countries.

For the United States, the loss of the Chengdu mission in southwestern China will, among other things, cloud its view of Tibet, a region where Buddhist residents say Beijing is eroding its culture and its traditional independent streak. China says Tibet has been its territory for centuries.

For China, the loss of its mission in Houston dims its view of America’s South and, according to U.S. officials, removes the nerve center of a Chinese spying network.

While the impact of the consulate closures has yet to be fully felt by either side, it will be.

“We’ll be flying blind if not with very dark glasses and so will they,” said Beatrice Camp, a retired career diplomat who served as consul general at the U.S. consulate in Shanghai from 2008 to 2011.

The closures of the consulates up the ante in the diplomatic confrontation, with the Trump administration turning up the heat on China in the midst of an already heated rivalry that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and ahead of the November U.S. presidential election — and Beijing responding in kind.

As President Donald Trump, under fire for his response to the pandemic, points to China as the culprit, neither side appears willing to back down. Although a calm of sorts has descended in recent days with no new actions or retaliation announced, U.S. officials say more is coming.

“It’s extremely aggressive, extremely belligerent and I don’t know what the goal is or where this is supposed to take us,” said Camp, noting that cooperation and exchanges in the fields of agriculture, energy, aviation, the environment and commercial and cultural exchanges will suffer.

In addition to serving as service centers for visa seekers and Chinese and American citizens in need of assistance in each city, the consulates provided a safe and secure headquarters for intelligence collection and political reporting.

In Houston, U.S. officials said they removed the epicenter of a Chinese spying network that spanned more than 25 cities, collecting intelligence, trying to steal intellectual property and harassing the expatriate families of dissidents and others while trying to coerce them to return to China.

Led by a consul general who had previously served in Australia, where China has been especially active in going after expatriates, the Houston consulate was “particularly aggressive and particularly successful,” one U.S. official said.

U.S. officials do not deny collecting intelligence from the consulate in Chengdu but insist that it functioned the same as any diplomatic mission run by the United States or other nations.

A second U.S. official, who like the first was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Chengdu was important for “understanding and messaging the Chinese people and especially the people in that district, which includes Tibet.”

But the officials said that those efforts were hamstrung by Chinese regulations and that China enjoyed far greater access from its Houston consulate than U.S. diplomats did in Chengdu.

The U.S. has had a consulate in Chengdu for 35 years, but its presence in southwest China predates that. During World War II, American planes airlifted supplies to Chinese troops in the area from bases in India and Burma, now called Myanmar, in a drive to hold back the Japanese advance.

For many years, it was the lone foreign consulate in Chengdu, with other nations forced to locate diplomatic missions in Chonqqing, a mega-city that is home to major U.S. and other Western commercial interests. The Chengdu consulate had also overseen U.S. interests in the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou.

Chengdu is also a jumping-off point for visits to Tibet, access to which has long been restricted for foreigners, particularly since an uprising against Beijing’s rule in 2008. China says Tibet has been its territory for seven centuries, but many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time.

Tibet’s Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India in 1959 amid an uprising against Chinese rule, and Beijing has refused dialogue with his self-declared government in exile.

China and India still contest the high-mountain border between the sides, and their forces engaged in clashes this summer that left 20 Indian troops dead. China has not disclosed its casualty count.

Prior to the fighting, the U.S. ambassador to Beijing, Terry Branstad, visited Tibet last year and urged Beijing to undertake substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama and refrain from interfering in religious practices.

As the capital of Sichuan province, with a population of more than 81 million people, Chengdu looms large in China’s economy, playing a major role in industries from aviation to pharmaceuticals and agricultural products.

With the Houston consulate’s closing, American citizens and Chinese seeking visas or wishing to manage business in the U.S. will have to travel to the embassy in Beijing or to consulates along the East Coast. The U.S. consulate in the central China city of Wuhan, from which the global pandemic first emerged late last year, remains closed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
US, China consulate closures deal losses to both nations
The United States and China have done more than strike symbolic blows in their escalating feud by shutting each other’s consulates
12:28AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Fauci back on Capitol Hill as virus surge drives new fears
Dr. Anthony Fauci is returning to Capitol Hill on Friday
12:17AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Former president who brought direct elections to Taiwan dies
Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, who brought direct elections and other democratic changes despite missile launches and other fierce saber-rattling by China, has died at age 97
11:36PM ( 58 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Prosecutor: No charges for officer in Michael Brown’s death
St. Louis County’s top prosecutor will not charge the former police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, a dramatic decision that could reopen old wounds amid a renewed and intense national conversation about racial injustice and the police treatment of people of color
11:19PM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump offers, Democrats reject fix for $600 jobless benefit
With aid expiring, the White House has offered a short-term extension of a $600 weekly unemployment benefit that has helped keep families and the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Democrats rejected it, saying President Donald Trump’s team failed to grasp the severity of the crisis
11:06PM ( 1 hour ago )
UN leaders to meet virtually; Trump might attend in person
The annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations is going virtual this year for the first time in its 75-year history because of the COVID-19 pandemic — except for the likely personal appearance by U.S. President Donald Trump
9:23PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Fauci back on Capitol Hill as virus surge drives new fears
Dr. Anthony Fauci is returning to Capitol Hill on Friday
12:17AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Former president who brought direct elections to Taiwan dies
Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, who brought direct elections and other democratic changes despite missile launches and other fierce saber-rattling by China, has died at age 97
11:36PM ( 58 minutes ago )
The Latest: Bali welcoming visitors after 4-month lockdown
Indonesia’s resort island of Bali has reopened to domestic tourists after an almost four-month lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic
11:35PM ( 59 minutes ago )
AP source: MLB will play 7-inning games in doubleheaders
Big league doubleheaders will now become a pair of seven-inning games in baseball’s latest radical rule change during a season reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic
11:23PM ( 1 hour ago )
Prosecutor: No charges for officer in Michael Brown’s death
St. Louis County’s top prosecutor will not charge the former police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, a dramatic decision that could reopen old wounds amid a renewed and intense national conversation about racial injustice and the police treatment of people of color
11:19PM ( 1 hour ago )