More Chinese Consulates 'May Well Be Closed,' Ted Cruz Warns as Tensions Escalate

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz warned that more Chinese consulates "may well be closed" moving forward, as tensions continue to escalate between Washington and Beijing.

Cruz, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the remarks in an interview with CBS News' Face the Nation on Sunday. Last week, the U.S. government ordered China to shutter its consulate in Houston by Friday, alleging that the diplomatic facility had been used for "stealing" intellectual property. Cruz strongly criticized China, blaming the East Asian nation for the novel coronavirus pandemic and raising concerns about its malign activities toward the U.S.

When asked by Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan whether more consulates could be closed, the GOP senator responded: "Well, they may well be closed."

"That consulate was closed because it had been engaged in espionage. It had been engaged in intellectual property theft. They use it as a base for spying in Houston and throughout the Southwest," Cruz said. "And for a long time, I have made the case that China poses the greatest geopolitical threat to the United States for the next century."

Newsweek reached out to the Chinese embassy in Washington for comment, but it did not receive a response by the time of publication. The Chinese government currently has four other open consulates in addition to its embassy in the U.S. capitol.

Beijing quickly responded to the Houston consulate closure by ordering the shuttering of the U.S. consulate in the city of Chengdu.

"China just informed the #US side of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment & operation of US Consulate General in Chengdu. The US Consulate General in Chengdu must cease all operations & events as required," Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tweeted on Friday.

"This is a legitimate & necessary response to the unilateral provocative move by the US to demand the closure of China's Consulate General in Houston," she wrote. Previously, the spokesperson said on Twitter that the Chinese embassy in the U.S. had received bomb and death threats, blaming criticism coming from the U.S. government.

Earlier in July, Cruz was sanctioned by China along with GOP Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, GOP Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, and Sam Brownback, the Trump administration's ambassador for international religious freedom. That decision from Beijing came after the Trump administration banned three senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party and their families from coming to the U.S.

"The Chinese Communist Party is terrified and lashing out," Cruz said in a statement at the time.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington have escalated significantly during Trump's tenure in the White House. Although there has long been bipartisan concern about China's growing global influence as well as its lack of Democratic freedoms at home, the current administration has taken a more confrontational approach.

Ted Cruz
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks during an oversight hearing to examine the Federal Communications Commission on June 24 in Washington, D.C. JONATHAN NEWTON/POOL/AFP/Getty

Those tensions have been exacerbated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which first arose in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Although the pandemic began in Wuhan in November, and did not reach the U.S. until late January, the Trump administration has blamed its bungled response to the pandemic on Beijing. Cruz reiterated this assessment in his interview with Face the Nation.

"This virus originated because of communist China's deliberate cover-up. They arrested, they silenced the heroic Chinese whistleblowers that tried to stop this at the outset," the Republican lawmaker said.