Asia Minute: China Closing U.S. Consulate

Jul 27, 2020

Diplomatic relations between the United States and China are at their lowest point in years. Last week, the United States ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston. Today, a U.S. consulate in China is closing — at the order of the Beijing government.

Diplomacy 101 includes the difference between an embassy and a consulate. Embassies are generally in national capitals — one per country. Consulates act as sort of branch offices of an embassy — usually with several in countries sharing close diplomatic and/or business ties.

Honolulu is home to a number of consulates — including Japan, South Korea, Australia and others.    

Until last week, China had five consulates in the United States. In addition to Houston, they’re in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The United States has had six consulates in China — including one in Hong Kong. The others are in Shanghai, Shenyeng in the northeast, Guangzhou in the south, and Wuhan — site of the original outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The consulate that’s closing today is in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in the west. Opened in 1985 — only the consulate in Wuhan is newer.

It’s the closest consulate to Tibet, but smaller than many other U.S. facilities in the country.

A piece in the South China Morning Post quoted nameless “observers” who said the Beijing government likely chose Chengdu so “it could make a point without adding too much fuel to the fire burning between the two countries.”