By Hu Xijin Source: Global Times
A security guard drives away from the Chinese Consulate General in Houston on Wednesday. Photo: AP
Will China retaliate against the US for abruptly ordering China to close its consulate in Houston? How will China strike back to such action? Reuters reported that China is considering shutting down the US consulate in Wuhan. It is very likely that the news agency is wrong this time.
Based on what I know, the US side has already made preparations to withdraw from its Wuhan consulate. It seems Washington hopes Beijing will ask it to shut down its consulate in Wuhan very much because in that case the US will suffer only a small loss.
I have reason to challenge that the Reuters report is deliberately intent on misleading China to do so.
I believe if China decides to close a US consulate in China as a tit-for-tat retaliation, it won’t choose the Wuhan. Such a choice will be too much to the US advantage. The US abrupt decision to order China to close its consulate in Houston within 72 hours is extremely rude. It has made China’s evacuation very troublesome. By contrast, the US side has been ready to leave Wuhan. It will feel less painful than what the Chinese diplomats have felt.
Therefore, if the Chinese side wants to retaliate, it’s very likely it will jump out of the battlefield preset by the US. It will choose a consulate that will surprise the US and hurt it more. In other words, the option should cause as much trouble to the US as the US decision has caused to China.
Frankly speaking, although closures of consulates or expelling diplomats could garner a lot of attention, it will not have a profound influence. With no intention to jeopardize the overall situation of China-US relations, Beijing doesn’t want to engage in a radical “diplomatic war” with Washington. But if Washington continues to provoke, it should be reminded that Beijing has as many as, or even more, cards to play than Washington does. China will not be afraid of any threat brought about by US moves to escalate conflict.
China has five consulates in the US, including the one in Houston. The US has six in China including the one in Hong Kong. There are at least one thousand and several hundred more staff in the US consulate in Hong Kong. Why does it have so many people there? It’s too obvious that the consulate is an intelligence center. China actually has many countermeasures. For instance, China could target the US Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau. Even if China doesn’t close it, it could instead cut its staff to one or two hundreds. This will make Washington suffer much pain.
Based on Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s remarks on Wednesday, it’s certain that China will retaliate. This will make all US consulates in China upset. Let them be nervous. They probably are all making emergency plans, packing up documents and preparing to burn them. China will finally target one of them. Before China announces its final decision, all US consulates in China will be upset and nervous.
It is the Chinese side that initially disclosed the news of the forced closure of the Chinese Houston consulate. This broke with past practices, as China normally does not act first to publicize “negative news.” This is beyond Washington’s expectation. After informing the Chinese side of its decision, the US side may expect China to make some diplomatic efforts while preparing for evacuation. It may hope to choose the best timing to announce the decision of closure.
Unexpectedly, China this time displayed to the world directly the ugly face of the US. The US claims the closing of China’s consulate in Houston was done in order to protect Americans’ intellectual property and private information. The statement is more like a hasty draft. It’s nonsense and unconvincing. I think China’s reactions have put the US side at a disadvantage – and have embarrassed it. No matter what China does next, China has gained the moral ground.
To be honest, I don’t want to see the escalation of a China-US confrontation. But what’s going on between the two countries is not as easy as some people might have thought. Major power competition is a very professional field. I am willing to believe in the wisdom of Chinese diplomatic teams and China’s top decision-makers. At this special time when the US is acting crazily, no matter what countermeasures the Chinese government will take, I believe the Chinese people will firmly stand with their government. We will support any of its bold decisions that are aimed to safeguard the interests of the Chinese people.
The author is editor-in-chief with the Global Times. [email protected]