By Adedapo Adesanya The United States-China relations took another downturn on Wednesday as the American government ordered China to cease all operations and events at its consulate in Houston, Texas. This worsened the already strained relationship between both world powers who are caught in an ongoing trade war, the coronavirus pandemic, and US criticism of China's human rights abuses. According to the US State Department spokeswoman, Ms Morgan Ortagus, the consulate was directed to close in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information. The US government has always accused China of engaging in massive illegal spying for years and influencing operations, claiming that those activities have increased over the past few years. In a statement posted on its official social media platform, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the order to close the consulate was a "political provocation unilaterally launched by the US side, which seriously violates international law, basic norms governing international relations and the bilateral consular agreement between China and the US." The statement continued that the US is "shifting the blame to China with stigmatization and unwarranted attacks against China's social system, harassing Chinese diplomatic and consular staff in the US, intimidating and interrogating Chinese students and confiscating their personal electrical devices, even detaining them without cause." It added that "China is committed to the principle of non-interference. Infiltration and interference is never in the genes and tradition of China's foreign policy." The country also called on the US to reconsider, saying if it insists on going through with the line of action, it will react with firm countermeasures. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also sent a warning to Chinese students in the US, asking them to be alert as US law enforcement agencies have stepped up arbitrary interrogations, harassment, confiscation of personal belongings and detention targeting Chinese international students in the US. The closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston comes soon after reports emerged of the US indicting two men accused of spying on US vaccine development on behalf of China's security services. However, Business Post understands that there is no clear evidence to link both events together but it shows that President Donald Trump administration is determined to step up the counter-attacks aimed at China. An escalation may affect the trade talks between both economies, a discussion that has been established recently due to a tariff war that started in 2018 over unfair trading practices and intellectual property theft.