In China, Foreign Minister Qin Gang was relieved of his duties

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who has not been seen in public for a month, has been relieved of his duties. The official New China News Agency said on Tuesday that Qin Gang, who has been in office since December 2022, has been replaced by his predecessor Wang Yi. No reason was given by the agency, which reports other appointments including Pan Gongsheng, a trained economist, to head the central bank.

A well-known face in China and internationally, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang was sacked from his post on Tuesday, a shocking decision as the career diplomat was known to be close to President Xi Jinping. In office for only seven months, he has not been seen in public since late June, which has fueled countless rumors on Chinese social networks. The Chinese Foreign Ministry had justified the absence as “reasons of health”, before falling into virtual silence. Since the beginning of Qin Gang’s absence, his predecessor Wang Yi had already taken over some of the former minister’s duties. State media also announced Tuesday that he would be replaced by his predecessor, Wang Yi, without giving any reason.

Qin Gang was appointed minister in late December, after serving as ambassador to the United States (2021–2022), a position particularly highlighted by the current bilateral tensions between the two world powers. Since then, he has missed several diplomatic meetings. Former spokesman for the ministry, head of the information service of protocol, yet vice minister of foreign affairs, 57-year-old Qin Gang has accumulated a wealth of experience as a diplomat. Considered a protégé of President Xi Jinping, he eluded other colleagues with equally well-stocked CVs to obtain the position of ambassador and then minister to the United States. Anglophone, he specialized in Western Europe during the first two decades of his career, notably being sent three times to the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom, the last time as number two (2010–2011).

“Chinese Democracy”

As spokesperson (2005–2010, then 2011–2014), he became a familiar face to the general Chinese public, with foreign ministry press conferences the subject of evening television news reports. The Qin Gang is sometimes characterized by sharp answers to questions from the press. One day in 2008, a journalist asked him his opinion on the release of the album “Chinese Democracy” (“Chinese Democracy”) by the American hard rock group Guns N’Roses. The spokesperson replied, “As far as I know, a lot of people don’t like this kind of music because it’s too loud and noisy. I imagine you’re a mature adult, okay?” But it is through his important functions as chief of protocol (2014–2018), when he accompanied Xi Jinping on foreign trips, that Qin Gang may have established a truly close relationship with the head of state. His job then was to organize the smallest details of his ministry and the diplomatic visits and appointments of the Chinese president. Qin Gang was also part of the group of Chinese Vice Foreign Ministers between 2018 and 2021. He was appointed to the prestigious position of ambassador to the United States, despite his lack of special expertise in this country.

silence the officers

Qin Gang thereafter gained international popularity through increased public appearances and statements in the press to clarify his country’s position in international affairs. In 2020, he speculated that the decline of China’s image in Western countries was due to the fact that Europeans and Americans, especially their media, had never accepted the Asian giant’s political system and economic growth. The Qin Gang is sometimes classified by foreign media as “combat wolves”, a nickname given to some Chinese diplomats who retaliate vigorously against Western criticism of China. However, his statements rarely deviated from diplomatic etiquette. Melinda Liu, Beijing correspondent for the American magazine Newsweek, wrote in the magazine Foreign Policy in 2021, “Those of us, among journalists, who have known Qin Gang for many years, see in him a shrewd and sly man who knows how to stay in the wind.”

“The disappearance of the Qin Gang (in recent weeks) is, if you will, a very glaring example of the total opacity of the upper echelons of Chinese politics,” Richard McGregor, an East Asia researcher at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, who has been renamed “X,” wrote on Twitter.



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