The reason for the decision – that it was central to Chinese espionage operations – is unconvincing given no solid evidence was presented. But while the move appears more about symbolism than substance, there is also no doubt that American President Donald Trump sees a battering ram approach towards China as being his best chance to win re-election in November.
There are obvious echoes of the Cold War between the US and Russia’s communist predecessor, the Soviet Union, in Trump’s move; the expelling of diplomats and closure of missions marked the depths of the freeze in ties.
His administration has perceived economic, political and strategic advantage in confronting China, tensions having been rising over trade, technology, Taiwan, and more recently, with the election looming, the coronavirus pandemic and Hong Kong’s national security law.
China calls US order to close Houston consulate ‘political provocation’
Trump’s poor handling of the outbreak and its economic fallout has prompted him to blame Beijing and every opportunity is being made to deride and mete out punishment.