China has told the US to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu, just days after the US demanded China shutter its consulate in Houston.
The move is part of an escalating spat between the two superpowers.
It was a “legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable measures by the United States”, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement, reported by AFP.
“The current situation in China-US relations is not what China desires to see, and the US is responsible for all this,” the statement added.
There had been speculation China could have kicked the US out of the more international city of Hong Kong. However, the government has settled on Chengdu, a city of 16 million people in the country’s south west.
On Wednesday, the US told Beijing its diplomats would have to leave China’s facility in Houston by Friday.
Fire engines were then called following reports of consulate staff burning papers at the consulate-general.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the closure was an “outrageous and unjustified move which will sabotage China-US relations”.
China had threatened to retaliate against the consulate closure if the US did not withdraw its decision.
In its statement on Friday, China’s urged the US again to backtrack and “create the necessary conditions for bilateral relations to return to normal”.
The Chengdu consulate was established in 1985 and has around 200 staff with approximately 150 locally hired Chinese employees, according to its website.
In recent days, Washington and Beijing have been crossing swords over a range of issues ranging from trade to the coronavirus pandemic and China’s policies on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.
“We have directed the closure of PRC Consulate General Houston in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Denmark.
She added that under the Vienna Convention, states “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs” of the receiving state.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio earlier called China’s Houston consulate the “central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies and influence operations in the United States”.
Michael McCaul, Republican Leader on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the consulate was the “epicentre” of Chinese efforts to steal “sensitive information to build up their military”.
The US cited Chinese theft of intellectual property for the closure, which came a day after the Justice Department unveiled the indictment of two Chinese nationals for allegedly hacking hundreds of companies and attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine research.
The comments drew ire from Beijing, with the foreign ministry’s Mr Wang labelling Washington’s allegations “malicious slander”.
The Chinese Consulate in Houston was opened in 1979 — the first in the year the US and the People’s Republic of China established diplomatic relations, according to its website.
The office covers eight southern US states — including Texas and Florida — and has nearly one million people in the area registered there.
There are five Chinese consulates in the US, as well as an embassy in Washington.
The US has an embassy in Beijing, plus five consulates in mainland China and one in Hong Kong.