China slammed the US move, which came one day after the unveiling of a US indictment targeting two Chinese nationals for allegedly hacking hundreds of companies worldwide and seeking to steal virus vaccine research.

A man on a hoverboard walks his dog past the China Consulate General in Houston, Texas, US, July 22, 2020.
A man on a hoverboard walks his dog past the China Consulate General in Houston, Texas, US, July 22, 2020. (Reuters)

US-Chinese relations, already tense over the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing's crackdown in Hong Kong, have deteriorated once again as Washington ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston within 72 hours.

The US decision to close China's consulate is the latest in a string of disputes that have taken the relationship between the world's two biggest economies to its lowest point in decades.

Here are the main points of contention between Beijing and Washington:


US President Donald Trump has accused China of a lack of transparency about the coronavirus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. He regularly refers to it as the "China virus".

Trump said Chinese officials "ignored their reporting obligations" to the World Health Organization about the virus – that has killed hundreds of thousands of people globally – and pressured the UN agency to "mislead the world".

China says it has been transparent about the outbreak and the WHO has denied Trump's assertions that it promoted Chinese "disinformation" about the virus. The US plans to quit the WHO in mid-2021 over its handling of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Is the US using the coronavirus to build an anti-China alliance?


The Trump administration began increasing tariffs on imports from China, its largest trading partner, in 2018 as part of an ambitious plan to force Beijing to curb subsidies on state manufacturing and tough demands on US companies in China.

After more than a year of tit-for-tat tariffs that slowed global economic growth, the countries signed a trade deal in January 2020 that rolls back some tariffs, but does not address the core issues. Beijing has pledged to increase imports of US goods by $200 billion over two years.

The US Commerce and State departments are pushing US companies to move sourcing and manufacturing out of China.

South China Sea

The US has hardened its position in recent weeks on the South China Sea, where it has accused China of attempting to build a "maritime empire" in the potentially energy-rich waters.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam challenge China's claim to about 90 percent of the sea. A July 13 statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the first time the US had called China's claims unlawful and accused Beijing of a "campaign of bullying".

READ MORE: The South China Sea dispute explained

Hong Kong

China and the US have clashed over anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong, most recently Beijing's imposition of new security legislation on the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Trump this month signed an executive order to end preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong, allowing him to impose sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese officials and financial institutions involved in enacting the law.

China has threatened retaliatory sanctions of its own.

READ MORE: China's security law in Hong Kong explained


The US has imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, companies and institutions over human rights violations linked to China's treatment of minority Muslim Uighurs in the country's western Xinjiang region.

China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in remote Xinjiang that it describes as "vocational training centres" to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.

READ MORE: US sanctions Chinese companies over Uighur Muslim abuse complaints

Journalists and Chinese students

The US has started treating several major Chinese state media outlets as foreign embassies and slashed the number of journalists allowed to work at US offices of those Chinese media outlets to 100 from 160.

In response, China expelled about a dozen American correspondents with major US outlets and asked four US media organizations to submit details about their operations in China.

Washington in May introduced new rules restricting the granting of visas to Chinese graduate students believed to have links with China's military.

READ MORE: How international students are countering Trump's planned purge


Chinese tech firm Huawei was added to the US Commerce Department's "entity list" last year due to national security concerns, amid accusations from Washington that it violated US sanctions on Iran and can spy on customers, allegations Huawei has denied. The listing greatly reduced its access to vital parts and supplies, like chips, from US suppliers.

Huawei says Washington wants to frustrate its growth because no US company offers the same technology at a competitive price.

The United States has been successfully pushing countries around the world to drop Huawei.

READ MORE: Five reasons why the US case against Huawei doesn't add up

North Korea

China is at odds with the US over North Korea even though they both want the country to give up its nuclear weapons. Washington has accused China of breaching UN sanctions on North Korea, assertions Beijing has denied. China wants to lift some sanctions, but the US disagrees.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Trump have met three times, but failed to make progress on US calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea's demands for an end to sanctions.

The number-two diplomat at the State Department, Stephen Biegun, said on Wednesday that Washington and Beijing could still work together against North Korea's development of weapons of mass destruction despite current tensions.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies