The People’s republic of China (PRC) has replaced its foreign minister after he disappeared from public sight in June, spurring much speculation.
South China Morning Post cited CCP propagandist CCTV in July 25 reporting as announcing that Qin Gang “has been removed as the country’s foreign minister” and was replaced by Wang Yi.
SCMP noted that Wang has already been “standing in as foreign minister for the past few weeks” and also formally held the position during Xi’s first and second terms.
The most notable difference now is that Wang was given a seat on the Politburo, making him the most powerful Foreign Minister since the 90s.
Qin made notable appearances in June, such as formally receiving Tesla CEO and Twitter owner Elon Musk during his first visit to Beijing and Shanghai since the Wuhan Pneumonia pandemic began in October of 2019.
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Gang also met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his trip to Beijing to meet with Xi in June, and had public visits with diplomats from Russia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.
“The decision to remove Qin from his post was made at a special session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which took place one day after the top decision-making body, the Politburo, convened on Monday,” SCMP wrote.
It’s unclear if Qin was a target of Xi’s long-standing anti-corruption campaign, or if he was simply depreciated in circumstances at least somewhat analogous to the removal of former CCP leader Hu Jintao by security from the CCP’s last Party Congress.
SCMP notes that Chinese-language media has been tight lipped about his disappearance from the public eye, with the official reason given that he has suffered from “health reasons” since July.
When Qin was appointed as Foreign Minister after Xi obtained his third term as President and leader of the CCP in December of 2022, he was described as “as one of the toughest voices within the foreign ministry” in reporting by SCMP that cited CCTV at the time.
Qin is still officially a State Councillor and a member of the CCP’s Standing Committee, but pundits expect he will lose these positions as well.
The outlet added that “observers say he gained Xi’s trust when he was involved in arrangements for the president’s overseas trips.”
Qin previously served as Ambassador to the United States in 2021 and served as a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry between 2005 to 2010 and 2011 to 2015.
The absence of Qin Gang was troublesome for China’s international relations.
In early July, European Union Foreign Affairs representative Josep Borrell had a trip to Beijing called off by the Chinese side on account of Qin’s absence, CNBC reported.
Borrell was supposed to attend in April, but after a positive PCR test for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the trip was postponed until mid-July.
Just days prior to Qin’s formal removal, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly canceled a planned trip to China, Bloomberg reported, citing “people familiar with the matter.”
“Qin’s situation was the main reason that the foreign secretary put off his travel, two of the people said, while the third said it was among several factors,” the article wrote.