US paints China as bogeyman, closes Houston consulate

On Wednesday, the U.S. government ordered China to close its consulate in Houston saying the decision was made “to protect American intellectual property.” The State Department gave its Chinese counterpart three days to suspend its operation, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson who added that China vowed to retaliate.

Jessica Chen Weiss, associate professor of government at Cornell University and an expert on Chinese politics, says the Trump administration seems to be pushing the narrative of China as the bogeyman as a distraction from its disastrous response to the pandemic.

“Unless more evidence is forthcoming, the U.S. decision to close the Chinese consulate in Houston looks like a stepped-up effort to use China as the bogeyman and distract U.S. voters from the Trump administration's disastrous response to the pandemic. If the consulate has been engaged in ‘massive illegal spying and influence operations,’ why was the announcement so thin on detail? Why did we not learn that the consulate had been warned previously to stop, and when they did not, this was the punishment meted out?

“[Top U.S. diplomat for East Asia David] Stillwell's suggestion that the consulate has been helping students steal from U.S. universities and other ‘subversive behavior’ is patchy. How will the Chinese government react to what it has already called an unprecedented political provocation? So far, China has responded in kind to each of the Trump administration's actions with a tit-for-tat response, so we are likely to see a continued race to the bottom. Because the United States has less access in China than China has to the United States, reciprocity can hurt the United States more than China. Now, more than ever, U.S. policymakers and voters must be wary of a Pyrrhic victory.

“The last thing we need as our country struggles with a once-in-a-century pandemic is an all-out confrontation with China.”

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