Are China and U.S. Headed for a Showdown at the Consulate in Houston?

Despite being ordered closed, China is reportedly refusing to leave the Houston Consulate and is ‘prepared for worst scenario.’

By Brooke Horowitz

When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers – African Proverb

The director of the Chinese consulate in Houston, TX is reportedly unwilling to close the diplomatic office in direct contravention of the State Department’s order to shut the office by Friday.

Analysis of this move largely comes to the conclusion that the refusal to leave the consulate must have been ordered by Chinese Communist Party officials in Beijing as local consulates are given little to no autonomy when it comes to decisions with foreign policy implications. 

In an interview POLITICO, Chinese consul general of Houston – Cai Wei said China is appealing the order and the Houston office will remain functioning “until further notice”

He later added, “Today we are still operating normally, so we will see what will happen tomorrow.” Indeed a short timeframe given the impending order is made to effectuate Friday at 4pm. 

The consulate has long been a place of protest for those opposed to Chinese actions. Regularly, the outlawed Falun Gong can be seen outside the office in silent, meditative protest. 

US officials have claimed the Houston consulate is an integral part of CCP espionage operations in the US mainland. Member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committee and impressive bullshit artist, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, tweeted that this Houston office is the “central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States.”

Beijing has since lobbied the US to retract the decision China and claims it contradicts international agreements that govern the nuanced sphere of diplomatic relations. Under the setting of furthering political, economic, and military tensions, Chinese officials have characterized the order as a ‘political provocation.’ Chinese has a long storied history of expelling diplomats and has recently expelled U.S. journalists who wrote unfavorably about the CCP.

“We think that the demand from the US side … is not according to the Vienna convention on consular affairs and also is not according to international practice or [diplomatic] norms, and it violates the China-US consular treaty,” Cai told Politico.

“We prepared for the worst scenario but we’ve also launched a strong protest … so we urge the US to abandon and revoke that wrong decision.”

What exactly ‘prepared for the worst case scenario’ means has many speculating about a kinetic and aggressive confrontation between the U.S. and China in, of all places, the Great State of Texas. Their Houston consulate is centrally located and any confrontation would have the potential to spill over into a larger conflict.  When a fire arose from their consulate last Tuesday, after a document burning spree, hundreds of people moved in to get a glimpse. Needless to say, any confrontation at this site will be disastrous. 

Rumors have bubbled up that Beijing is considering shuttering the US consulate in the Chinese city of Chengdu. This is the consulate that deals with Tibetan affairs — a region long occupied and brutalized by the Chinese. 

Yet officials at the Houston consulate continue to deny any spy operations. 

“We have never done this,” Cai said, referring to a spy operation. “What we have done is very legal and follows the law and normal practice.”

This, of course, flies in the face of what analysts have long known in the ever-growing  great power conflict between the U.S., China, and Russia. All three countries are equally engaged in vast espionage operations as well rapid military build-up. 

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