U.S. officials do not deny collecting intelligence from the consulate in Chengdu but insist that it functioned the same as any diplomatic mission run by the United States or other nations.
A second U.S. official, who like the first was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Chengdu was important for “understanding and messaging the Chinese people and especially the people in that district, which includes Tibet.”
But the officials said that those efforts were hamstrung by Chinese regulations and that China enjoyed far greater access from its Houston consulate than U.S. diplomats did in Chengdu.
The U.S. has had a consulate in Chengdu for 35 years, but its presence in southwest China predates that. During World War II, American planes airlifted supplies to Chinese troops in the area from bases in India and Burma, now called Myanmar, in a drive to hold back the Japanese advance.
For many years, it was the lone foreign consulate in…