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China Gets New Foreign Minister After A Long Absence Of Qin Gang

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China’s new foreign minister Wang Yi was appointed on Tuesday, replacing former Qin Gang, after he was missing for one-month from office. Gang remained in office for close to only six months.

According to the ministry he was away for health reasons but the ministry did not divulge more than this. However, this sparked speculation around Chinese Communist leadership.

The 69-year-old Wang, succeeded Qin and was also the ministry’s in-charge from 2013 to 2022 as relations with the rival nation United States deteriorated to what Beijing called an “all-time low.”

He has stepped in for Qin while he was away, and last week he represented China at a BRICS conference of national security advisers in Johannesburg.

On June 18, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited China for the first time in five years and met with Qin. They had “candid, substantive, and constructive” discussions at that time, according to the US State Department, and Blinken offered Qin to visit Washington to continue the conversation.

In Qin’s absence, Blinken later met Wang on the sidelines of a regional conference in Jakarta.

Qin’s removal was not explained by Chinese official media. According to state news agency Xinhua, Xi put the decision into action by signing a presidential decree.

Ja Ian Chong, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore, said, “The lack of an explanation opens more questions than provides answers. It also underscores the opacity and unpredictability, even arbitrariness in the current political system.”

The apparent disappearance of Qin was not the first time a Chinese official had gone missing without a trace. Before it was disclosed that the industry minister Xiao Yaqing was under investigation for corruption last year, he had been hidden from the public eye for about a month.

Vedant Patel, the deputy spokesperson for the US State Department, stated at a regular briefing on Tuesday that Blinken had met Wang several times but that China was free to choose its foreign minister.

Qin’s shining career

57-year-old Qin Gang was politically close to President Xi Jinping and was also an envoy to the United States. He took the ministry’s reigns in December last year but is absent in public eyes since June 25 when he was last seen visiting diplomats in Beijing.

One of China’s youngest foreign ministers, Qin rose quickly, a rise analysts partly attributed to his closeness to Xi. Between 2006 and 2014, he served twice as the foreign ministry’s spokesman. From 2014 to 2018, he served as the chief protocol officer, managing many of Xi’s interactions with world leaders.

He was appointed ambassador to Washington in July 2021, following a time of unusually heated public rhetoric between American and Chinese leaders.

Wang retakes control of the foreign ministry as Beijing tussles with Washington over problems ranging from the Ukraine, Russia, and Taiwan to trade and technology disputes, and as China tries to re-engage with the world after years of COVID-induced isolation.

According to director of the China Program at the Stimson Center in Washington Yun Sun, “The choice of Wang Yi is rational. To convey a sense of stability and credibility, China needs to select someone who is senior, authoritative and impeccable.”

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