The removal of Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, generates rumours.
Speculation surrounding Qin Gang continued unabated on Wednesday, following his sudden removal as China’s foreign minister after serving just seven months in the position. Surprisingly, no specific reason was provided for his dismissal, which was announced after an emergency meeting on Tuesday. He has been replaced by his predecessor, Wang Yi.
During the past month, Qin Gang’s absence from public view has caused widespread speculation in China and abroad, with social media abuzz with searches and conjectures about his abrupt departure. The official announcement about Wang Yi’s appointment as the new foreign minister only fueled the rumours further, as the Chinese internet, usually tightly censored regarding senior officials, openly discussed the issue.
The 57-year-old Qin Gang, considered a close associate of President Xi Jinping, had risen to the position of foreign minister at a young age, making his fall from grace all the more surprising. His previous meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing indicated an effort to restore diplomatic contacts at the highest level between the two countries.
Daniel Russell from the Asia Society Policy Institute commented on the situation, describing Qin Gang’s rise and fall as unexpected and possibly an embarrassing lapse in judgement by China’s leadership.
Qin Gang’s swift ascent to foreign minister had been meteoric, starting from his role as ambassador to the US, where he earned a reputation as a bold and assertive “wolf-warrior” diplomat. His close involvement in organising President Xi’s overseas trips had given him valuable opportunities to work closely with the Chinese leader.
The sudden episode involving Qin Gang adds to a series of public challenges that President Xi has faced in the past 12 months, according to Ian Johnson, a senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. Johnson anticipates the “National People’s Congress” to announce a new foreign minister next March after thorough vetting.
In China’s political system, foreign policy is formulated by high-ranking officials, who then direct the foreign minister to implement it. Qin Gang’s departure has left a void to be filled, and the nation awaits the appointment of a successor who will carry on these responsibilities.