US Consulate in Chengdu Closes, Under Close Scrutiny by China’s State-Run Media

July 27, 2020 Updated: July 27, 2020

The U.S. Consulate in Chengdu officially closed on July 27 after Beijing ordered its shutdown in retaliation against Washington’s closure of the Chinese Consulate in Houston.

At around 10:50 a.m. local time, the U.S. Embassy in China released a 40-second video on its official Weibo account, announcing its farewell to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. Minutes later, China’s state-run media Xinhua reported that Chinese authorities had entered the U.S. diplomatic compound and took over the facility at 10 a.m. local time.

U.S. diplomatic officials in the Chengdu consulate issued a message for the Chinese people in its video. It says that the consulate, established in 1985, is proud to have been working hard to promote “mutual understanding” between people in the United States and people in the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet, and the Chinese megacity of Chongqing.

Chengdu is the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. Yunnan, Guizhou, and Chongqing are Sichuan’s bordering regions to the province southeast and south.

“We will forever miss you,” the video concluded, addressing the Chinese people in these provinces and the city.

The United States continues to operate four other consulates in China, which are located in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Wuhan. The United States also has a consulate in the Chinese-ruled city of Hong Kong.

“We are disappointed by the Chinese Communist Party’s decision and will strive to continue our outreach to the people in this important region through our other posts in China,” the U.S. State Department said in statement.

On July 22, the United States ordered the Chinese Consulate in Houston to close in order to “protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” the State Department announced at the time.

Two days later, Beijing ordered the shutdown of the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in an apparent tit-for-tat retaliation. China’s foreign ministry defended the closure, accusing some U.S. staffers in the consulate of having engaged in activities that “undermine China’s security interests.”

China’s state-run media has extensively covered events directly inside and outside of the U.S. Consulate since July 24, detailing how locals took pictures outside of the diplomatic compound, how buses and trucks left the consulate, and how the U.S. flag at the consulate was lowered on July 27.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) took to Twitter to warn about China’s media coverage of the U.S. Consulate.

“The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is now live-streaming our consulate on state-run TV and using it as fodder for their propaganda,” Blackburn wrote.

China’s hawkish Global Times media outlet has been busy publishing content allegedly claiming that Beijing’s decision to shut down the U.S. Consulate had “public support.” It published an article on July 25 accusing the United States of trying to “separate” the CCP from the Chinese people.

The article asked the United States to “observe Chinese public opinion,” and reported about how there were cheers on Chinese social media over Beijing’s decision, and on how local residents had apparently gathered outside of the consulate to have “some fun.”

The Global Times echoed a similar narrative in an article published on July 26, titled “Chinese netizens hail closure of U.S. Consulate in Chengdu.”

On July 27, the Global Times published an opinion article by a professor from China’s Peking University. The professor argued that Chinese people “understood and supported” Beijing’s actions, though he didn’t cite evidence to back up his claim.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a speech on July 23 at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in California, called the Chinese people a “dynamic, freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party.”

Pompeo called on the United States to “engage and empower the Chinese people.” He also asked the free nations of the world to “induce change in the CCP’s behavior in more creative and assertive ways.”

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer