Morning Brief

The U.S. Is Out of Chengdu In New Low for U.S.-China Ties

The move comes after the consulate was given a 72-hour deadline to vacate on Friday in retaliation for the closure of the Chinese Consulate in Houston.

A policeman stands in front of the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, southwestern China's Sichuan province, on July 27, 2020.
A policeman stands in front of the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, southwestern China's Sichuan province, on July 27, 2020. Noel Celis / AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The U.S. consulate closes in the Chinese city of Chengdu, a cease-fire begins in Ukraine, North Korea announces a possible coronavirus case, and what to watch in the world this week.

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Following Houston, U.S. Consulate Closes In Chengdu

The flag at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu was lowered in the early hours of this morning, signaling the end of U.S. diplomatic operations in the capital of Sichuan province for the foreseeable future.

A statement from the U.S. State Department confirmed the suspension of activities. “We are disappointed by the Chinese Communist Party’s decision and will strive to continue our outreach to the people in this important region through our other posts in China,” the statement read.

It marks another low point in U.S.-China relations after the U.S. government ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston on Friday. The tit-for-tat leaves the two countries with an equal, but diminished, diplomatic presence: At present, both countries still maintain four consulates and an embassy on each other’s soil.

“Madmen” in America. The pro-government Chinese newspaper Global Times lamented the fraying of ties, while being in no doubt of where to lay the blame. “Right now, it is no longer a matter of whether China-U.S. ties are in freefall, but whether the line of defense on world peace is being broken through by Washington,” a Sunday editorial said. “The world must not be hijacked by a group of political madmen.”

A rush to decoupling? Foreign Policy’s James Palmer reflected on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum last Thursday, when the secretary laid out a vision for an alliance of “free world” countries to take on China. The speech, Palmer writes, highlights the divisions within the Trump administration between those who wish to maintain business ties with China and those who want the U.S. to disentangle itself from the Chinese economy altogether.

The World This Week

On Monday, July 27, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his annual address. He is expected to focus on his country’s fight against the coronavirus, where over 80,000 cases have been reported so far.

On Tuesday, July 28, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will host their Australian counterparts, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defense Minister Linda Reynolds, for the 2020 Australia-U.S. Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations at the Department of State.

Also on Tuesday, Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun is expected to speak at the annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), held virtually.

On Wednesday, July 29, the U.S. Federal Reserve Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will announce its decision to raise, lower, or maintain current interest rates. Fed Chief Jerome Powell will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. in Washington.

The Eid al-Adha Islamic holiday begins at sunset on Thursday, July 30 and runs for four days.

What We’re Following Today

Coronavirus in North Korea. North Korea has put the city of Kaesong on lockdown after a suspected coronavirus case was discovered. North Korea’s Central News Agency said the suspected case came from a defector who had returned to the country. In April, Radio Free Asia reported that North Korean authorities had warned citizens of confirmed cases in North Korea as early as March. Those cases were in Pyongyang, South Hwanghae province, and North Hamgyong province.

U.S. mulls more coronavirus relief. Republican lawmakers are set to release their proposal for another coronavirus-driven relief package, expected to cost around $1 trillion. The plan includes another $1,200 one-off check to qualifying Americans and floats a new mechanism to supplement lost income from unemployment. A $600 supplemental weekly unemployment benefit enacted in March effectively ended over the weekend.

Eastern Russia protests continue. Residents of Khabarovsk, a city in Russia’s Far East, took to the streets in the thousands for the third Saturday in a row to protest the arrest of their governor, Sergei Furgal, by federal police on murder charges. Mikhail Degtyarev, Furgal’s Kremlin-appointed replacement, has dismissed calls to resign and instead accused the protesters of being influenced by foreigners who had flown in to Khabarovsk.

Ukraine cease-fire begins. A cease-fire between Ukrainian government and rebel forces in Eastern Ukraine went into effect just after midnight. The cease-fire was welcomed by both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President President Volodymyr Zelensky after it had been brokered by representatives of Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) last week.

Keep an Eye On

Domestic violence treaty in trouble in Poland. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has pushed back on a proposal by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro to withdraw the country from a European treaty on violence against women. Ziobro is a member of another right-wing party, United Poland, in coalition with Law and Justice. “Decisions have not been taken. This is not our common stance,” a Law and Justice spokesperson said after Ziobro’s proposal was made public.

Deposed CAR leader to run again. Former Central African Republic President Francois Bozize has announced his intention to run in the country’s December presidential elections, despite U.N. sanctions and facing an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity. Bozize had led the country for ten years before being overthrown in 2013.

Khalilzad pushes for peace. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, will visit five countries this week as he seeks to encourage peace talks and ramp up prisoner exchanges between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Khalilzad’s travels will take him to Doha, Kabul, Islamabad, Oslo, and Sofia according to the State Department. On Saturday, the Taliban accused Afghan authorities of recapturing some of the former Taliban detainees released as part of confidence-building measures ahead of peace talks. Kabul has rejected the Taliban’s claim.

Odds and Ends

A St. Bernard dog, a breed usually known for its prowess at high altitudes, was the subject of a rescue operation after it collapsed while descending Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. A 16-person volunteer rescue team was dispatched to attend to Daisy, the 120-pound canine, carrying her down the mountain on a stretcher. Due to Daisy’s size, the operation was “not that much different to a normal adult evacuation,” a spokesman for Wasdale mountain rescue team told the Press Association.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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