Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.
Plummeting relations between the United States and China hit a new low after the tit-for-tat closures of consulates in Houston and Chengdu last week. Though the closures are mostly symbolic, any détente between Washington and Beijing looks even more unrealistic now. With the U.S. presidential election just months away and President Donald Trump suffering in the polls, it has become increasingly difficult to guess what comes next.
When the Trump administration ordered China to shut its consulate in Houston last Wednesday, with only 72 hours’ notice, American officials claimed that the facility and other Chinese diplomatic missions in the U.S. were being used by Beijing for economic espionage, the theft of research and visa fraud. The rationale for the timing of the closure was unclear, but U.S. authorities have recently arrested four alleged Chinese military operatives over visa fraud, including one who sought refuge in China’s consulate in San Francisco before she was subsequently arrested.