The U.S. lowered its flag over the American consulate in the Chinese city of Chengdu, the latest historic milestone marking the deterioration in relations between Washington and Beijing.
American diplomats were expected to depart the consulate by Monday, two days after the U.S. government forced their Chinese counterparts out of their mission in Houston. The security cordon around the consulate, which has ebbed and flowed since China announced its decision Friday to expel the diplomats, tightened Monday morning, with police preventing pedestrians from getting within a block of the facility.
The closure of the U.S. consulate after 35 years in the southwestern city drew a steady stream of onlookers throughout the weekend, as people filmed moving vans and consulate personnel pass in and out of the compound gates. The two consulates are the most tangible casualties yet of one of the worst disputes between the U.S. and China since two sides formally established relations in 1979.
The Trump administration’s decision to shutter the Houston mission followed years of frustration about what it said were criminal and covert activities directed by Beijing to steal trade secrets and carry out malign influence operations across the U.S. While two Chinese citizens were convicted in the past year for trying to steal trade secrets in America’s energy capital, U.S. administration officials told reporters Friday that activity conducted through the Houston consulate represented the “tip of the iceberg.”
On Saturday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it lodged “solemn representations” with the U.S. over the forced entry into the Houston consulate. Beijing will make a legitimate and necessary response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.
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Beijing, China’s sprawling capital, has history stretching back 3 millennia. Yet it’s known as much for modern architecture as its ancient sites such as the grand Forbidden City complex, the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
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