Daily Memo: Setting Fire to Diplomacy, Hezbollah Retaliates

Events in Houston may again mark an inflection point in U.S.-Chinese relations.

China, we have a problem. The U.S. abruptly ordered the closure of the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas, citing “massive illegal spying and influence operations,” and gave the Chinese 72 hours to vacate the premises. Washington didn’t provide any more detail on its rationale for the move, but it comes less than a day after the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment accusing a pair of government-affiliated hackers of trying to steal COVID-19 research from U.S. companies. The Chinese reportedly burned so many documents before leaving that the Houston Fire Department was called to the scene. True to form, Beijing pledged to retaliate (U.S. diplomats and spies in China might want to get a jump on their own shredding operations). However, Reuters has reported that Beijing is considering ordering the closure of the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, which has been shuttered since the coronavirus outbreak began. In other words, Beijing is mainly interested in saving face and keeping the matter from escalating. There are several irresolvable points of contention in the U.S.-Chinese relationship — and, to be sure, all major powers run espionage operations out of their embassies and consulates — but a complete breakdown in diplomatic channels is in […]

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