BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin said Beijing would likely respond to the forced closure of its Houston consulate with moves that inflict more pain on the US than closing its operation in Wuhan – including potential cuts to its larger Hong Kong mission.
“The US has over 1,000 staff at the Hong Kong consulate,” Hu, the editor of the Communist Party newspaper, wrote in a post on Chinese social media on Thursday (July 23). “What are so many people doing? It is obviously a spy centre.”
Cutting its staff to 100 or 200 people could be one of the many options available to China, said Hu, whose Twitter and Weibo posts are closely watched as they have in the past preempted official Chinese government announcements.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin pointed out on Wednesday that the number of US diplomatic missions and staff in China far exceeds that of China’s presence in America, before saying Beijing would retaliate if the US didn’t reverse its decision on Houston.
The forced shut down of the Houston consulate represents one of the biggest threats in years to relations between the US and China, which have worsened in recent months on fronts ranging from trade to the early handling of the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump said shutting other Chinese missions in the US continued to be a possibility.
The US consulate in Wuhan – the mainland city at the early epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic – has already started making preparations, Hu wrote, saying the Chinese mission in Houston was only give 72 hours to close causing great inconvenience. Hu didn’t elaborate or say where he got the information.
Closing the Wuhan consulate would thus be too easy and the US sense of pain would not be the same as that felt by Chinese diplomats leaving Houston, he wrote.
“Therefore when China makes a retaliatory move, it is very likely to jump out of the US’s preset battlefield and start at a place the makes the US feel more pain and catches it by surprise,” Hu wrote.