By Ssemanda Allawi.
In a bizarre and an unprecedented move in Diplomacy and International Relations field, on Tuesday 21st, the U.S gave China 72 hours to close its Consulate-General in Houston, Texas a move that in many ways violates International laws and Vienna Convention. While one may argue that China also ordered closure of U.S consulate in Chengdu, Beijing called this a counter-measure in response to what they see as U.S’ provocative decision.
While the U.S argued that this decision was made to “protect American intellectual property,” this argument without giving clear and undisputed details leaves the decision provocative, bully and strengthens what is now an open secret that Washington is determined to with their violation of international conventions whenever it plays in their political interests.
On face value, as some politicians in Washington are pushing their narrative, one may conclude that the decision to close the consulate was not purely in interest of America as Trump administration has always pushed his America first agenda. A closer analysis of events before and after Washington’s decision suggest otherwise.
While the decision was announced on Tuesday 21st, by this time, it was very clear in Washington that the number of Covid-19 cases in the country was growing and it was evident that by end of the week, the U.S alone would have entered into four million cases which they entered today Friday 24th. While this pandemic is a global problem, many analysts in the U.S and indeed globally argue that cases in the U.S are on rise as a result of poor handling by the administration, a claim which has attracted strong criticism to Trump administration. To divert attention of Americans from this hard hitting reality, the U.S state department had to come up with “fabricated” claims to support their action and hence change American focus from the rising covid-19 cases to the new narrative that the country is faced with a threat from China and the administration is doing all they can to “protect” them.
Indeed, senator Angus King of Maine, told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” Wednesday 22nd that he was not aware of any “recent intelligence of particular Chinese activities, either with regard to our elections, or the whole confrontation between our two countries — theft of intellectual property” that may have driven the decision. “My concern is, escalating this tension, is it really about confronting China, or does it have something to do with an election in four months?” King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said.
Relatedly, America’s decision came at a time when the U.S is faced with challenge of Economic Meltdown that this week, the country announced 26% increase in commercial filing bankruptcy, a figure that does not sound well politically especially Americans are just four months away from polls.
There have also been other claims of spying with some American officials claiming that their intelligence reports show China aiding its citizens to spy on the U.S. While such claims are serious, in my view without undisputed evidence, such claims are just smear campaign and should be treated with contempt they deserve.
Indeed, the president of the U.S, Donald Trump has on different occasions accused his intelligence agencies of “lying” and “being political” while doing their work. American media have on different occasions reported president Trump rubbishing their reports including FBI’s report on his campaign dealings with Russia. Therefore, isn’t it strange that America want the world to believe reports and claims of agencies American president has accused of telling lies? Why should we believe that even their claims this time are not lies meant for political purposes?
While the U.S State Department on 21st July argued that Washington’s decision to force closure of China’s consulate in Houston was meant “to protect American Intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” they were tight-lipped on giving out evidence or details.
A day later, U.S secretary of State Mike Pompeo, defended the decision explaining that the decision was made “to protect the American People, our security, our national security, and also protect our economy and jobs.” Secretary Pompeo’s claims without evidence also raises some questions like; how does expelling a handful of Chinese diplomats and their families translate into protecting security, economy and jobs?
On the other hand, David Stilwell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia raised “subversive behaviour” by Chinese diplomats in Huston Consulate as the reason for U.S’ decision arguing that; “some of China’s attempted scientific thefts in the United States had accelerated over the last six months, and could be related to efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus.” With the above argument, it is important to recall that while the U.S Covid-19 cases tripled in the last few months, China has been able to contain the outbreak numbers for several months with several cities reporting no single case in months! Isn’t it therefore difficult to explain why Chinese diplomats risk to “steal” America’s vaccine when their country is not in crisis?
With a deep analysis, one may conclude that the true reason Trump administration wont easily say is Trump’s Re-elections campaign strategy is the reason behind this animosity towards China.
According to RealClearPolitics, Biden is leading Trump in all polls including in swing states that helped Trump win 2016 polls.
To salvage Trump’s Re-Election campaign, Top Republican leaders informed Foreign Policy Magazine that “Party Polling consistently reveals that China-bashing is immensely popular among Trump supporters and that the “blame China” theme can help re-elect the president in November, offsetting some of the disdain many Americans have for his handling of the country’s COVID-19 crisis.”
BBC’s defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus argues that “In the midst of a presidential re-election campaign and with the US economy and society battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Trump has determined that there is political advantage in playing the China card.”
In conclusion, one can conclude that while president Trump is mostly concerned with elections, some politicians around him are taking advantage to push their individuals’ agendas not in America’s interest per se but in Trump’s. The Intelligence community and establishment have long sought to contain China’s rise hopping to prevent Beijing from becoming the world’s top economic, technological and military power house. Unfortunately, or fortunately, some politicians in Washington are drumming up this agenda which is now not even sparing diplomatic avenues.
Research Fellow at Development Watch Centre & Author; Global Governance and Norm Contestation: How BRICS is Reshaping Global Order.