Vanished Foreign Minister Hand-Picked by Xi Is Replaced

China's Qin Gang hasn't been seen since June; absence met with rumors of extramarital affair
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2023 12:26 PM CDT
China Replaces Foreign Minister Last Seen in June
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with then-Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, right, in Beijing, China, on June 18.   (Leah Millis/Pool Photo via AP, File)

China's foreign minister is out of the job after just seven months, including a final month in which he hasn't been seen in public. Qin Gang last appeared in public in Beijing on June 25 during a meeting with officials from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Russia, per CNN. On July 11, the Foreign Ministry said he would miss a diplomatic meeting in Indonesia, where he'd been expected to meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, "due to health reasons," per the Guardian. "Since then, spokespeople at the Foreign Ministry have sidestepped questions about Qin, with mentions of the foreign minister recently omitted from the transcripts of daily press briefings," per the Wall Street Journal.

As the Communist Party's elite 24-member Politburo met on Monday, a meeting of the Chinese legislature's standing committee was suddenly arranged for the following day, sparking speculation that lawmakers would confirm personnel changes that President Xi Jinping and other party leaders approved. At Tuesday's meeting, the committee decided Qin's predecessor, Wang Yi, would resume the post of foreign minister, while apparently retaining his new role as the Communist Party's director of foreign affairs, per the Journal. That left plenty of unanswered questions about 57-year-old Qin, a trusted aide of Xi who served as China's ambassador to Washington before Xi hand-picked him to replace Wang in December.

Qin's appointment "over more experienced candidates caused some surprise among observers of elite Chinese politics, but was widely seen as a sign of Xi's trust in the diplomat," per CNN. His departure comes as another surprise. There's been speculation about "a power struggle with Wang" and "an alleged affair with a TV anchor," per the Guardian. Whether or not there's truth to that, "Qin Gang was single-handedly pulled up the ranks by Xi," meaning "any problems with him will reflect badly on Xi, too," analyst Deng Yuwen tells CNN. The outlet notes senior officials have been known to vanish months before it's revealed that they've been detained. The Guardian adds the health excuse has been used to explain absences of officials "who have fallen out of favor." (More China stories.)

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