China has ordered the United States to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu, responding to a U.S. demand for China to close its Houston consulate, as relations between the world’s two largest economies deteriorate. The order to close the consulate in Chengdu, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, comes just days after the US ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas.

China had warned it would retaliate after it was this week given 72 hours – until Friday – to vacate its Houston consulate, and had urged the United States to reconsider. Tension between Washington and Beijing have increased substantially this year over issues ranging from trade and technology to the novel coronavirus, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong, according to OANN.

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“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China informed the U.S. Embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said some Chengdu consulate personnel were “conducting activities not in line with their identities” and had interfered in China’s affairs and harmed China’s security interests, but he did not say how. Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi, who is also foreign minister, blamed Washington for the deterioration in ties.

“The current difficult situation in Sino-U.S. relations is entirely caused by the United States, and its goal is trying to interrupt China’s development,” Wang said in a video conversation with his German counterpart. China still hoped to achieve mutual respect, and win-win cooperation with the United States, he said.

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The consulate was given 72 hours to close, or until 10 a.m. on Monday, the editor of the Global Times newspaper said on Twitter.

The consulate opened in 1985 and has almost 200 employees including about 150 locally hired staff, according to its website. It was not immediately clear how many are there now after a significant number of U.S. diplomats were evacuated from China during the early stages of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The U.S. State Department warned American citizens in China of a greater risk of arbitrary law enforcement including detention and a ban on leaving, repeating a similar warning two weeks ago.

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