Houston, We Have a Problem

By Hong Yang Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/25 9:49:55

Photo: VCG

When astronauts on Apollo 13 transmitted "Houston, we've had a problem here" to the NASA Mission Control Center in Houston, none of them would expect this line to become a popular movie quote and turn "Houston" into a synonym for emergencies.

Yet the line has since become widely known and somehow prophetic. On July 21, 2020, fifty years after the space mission, the United States abruptly ordered China to close its Consulate General in Houston within 72 hours. An egregious, unfortunate "milestone" in the history of China-US relations has thus been set, and, sadly, in Houston.

The city was once a bright example of China-US exchanges and cooperation. When the two countries began their diplomatic relations, Houston became the first American city to host a Chinese consulate general. In the many years that followed, the city developed into a window that showcased the strength of China-US relations, both at governmental and societal levels. Houston has welcomed many high-level Chinese delegations. It has enjoyed vibrant trade ties with China. For the Greater Houston Area, China is its second biggest trading partner and forth largest export market. Of Houston's sister cities, one can find glittering names of Chinese cities, from Shenzhen to Shanghai and then Ningbo.  

Since the Houston Rockets made Yao Ming its No. 1 pick in the 2002 NBA draft, the team has been seen by the Chinese people as their "half home team", and their affection toward the city has also grown. Over the years, streams of Chinese tourists and businesses have arrived and direct flights opened, bringing goodwill for friendship and partnership to the city. With its experience, Houston stands as proof for the benefits that a friendly and win-win relationship can deliver for both China and the United States.

But things took a radical change with COVID-19 weighing on the United States. The US administration launched an assault campaign against China, which culminated with the forced closure of the Chinese Consulate General. In scapegoating China and stirring up a war of words, the administration is playing the China card to serve its election campaign. On COVID-19, it is desperately shifting the blame to China by making groundless accusations. On issues related to Tibet and Xinjiang, it has flagrantly interfered in China's internal affairs yet feels no guilt about taking a double-standard on its own problems. On Hong Kong, it has made outrageous provocations under flimsy pretexts. On 5G, it has tried all means to prevent China from getting ahead. Such practices by the US administration have done no good but turned itself into a laughing stock.

Last year, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for anti-China elements in Hong Kong, taking a heavy toll on the otherwise close partnership between NBA and China. The farce laid bare the deep-running arrogance and prejudice held by some US politicians and business people against China. 

The United States claims to have the "most democratic" political system, yet cannot accept anyone that has proved more capable in state governance. It boasts of the "most inclusive" culture, yet cannot accept anyone with a different voice. Putting labels on Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks is considered offensive, but doing the same to Asian Americans is fine. Political correctness applies to almost all minority groups, but members of the Chinese Communist Party are born evil. Ruthless cults like Falun Gong have been hailed by a certain ambassador at large for religious affairs, while Marxism-Leninism, in the eyes of some politician, is nothing but a doctrine that sacrifices individuals. 

People who conduct these acts of "compassion" claim to be upholding universal values, yet they show no tolerance for anyone who's not on their side. Perhaps, such a play of double standards is simply the nature of "American democracy".

Today, in the Gulf of Mexico, the Lone Star Republic is only a name in the history book. Houston, with its amazing scenery and proud democratic traditions, could offer a good shelter for those anti-China politicians from the angry protesters in Washington D.C. When they come to Houston, they can review the heroic acts of General Sam Houston on the San Jacinto Battleground, and take a selfie, if they like, at the place where George Floyd had lived. If they happen to be not wearing a mask and can breathe freely, don't forget to take a deep breath of the fresh air of true democracy. 

As people often say, everything is bigger in Texas — bigger cowboy boots and bigger space capsules. Of course, with the Chinese people outraged by the closure of the Consulate General, the problem for Houston is also bigger now.

The author is a current affairs commentator.  

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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