25 February 2024

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A month after Qin Gang disappeared from public view, China replaced ‘missing’ foreign minister

On Tuesday, Chinese diplomat Wang Yi was designated foreign minister, a month after his predecessor went ‘missing’ from his duties. Officials have previously cited health reasons for his absence, despite widespread speculation that he had fallen out with the country’s leadership or been implicated in a slew of scandals. Qin’s last public appearance was on June 25 in Beijing for a meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry.

According to state news agency Xinhua, the decision became effective after Xi Jinping signed a presidential decree. Local media outlets did not explain why Qin was dismissed from office despite his spectacular rise. 

“State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang is unable to attend this series of foreign ministers’ meetings due to health reasons,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced in mid-July during a daily briefing. This detail, however, was omitted from the official briefing transcript. 

In the weeks since, there has been no follow-up announcement or explanation from the Foreign Ministry. 

China’s youngest foreign ministers

Qin, a close assistant to President Xi, was in the midst of a rapid rise to prominence when he ‘disappeared’ last month. He was a former US envoy when he took over the ministry in December, making him one of China’s youngest foreign ministers. He served as foreign ministry spokesman twice and as chief protocol officer from 2014 to 2018, supervising many of Xi’s meetings with foreign leaders. He was appointed ambassador to Washington in July 2021, following a period of heightened public animosity between US and Chinese authorities.

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It is not the first time that officials have gone missing in China without explanation. Last year, Industry Minister Xiao Yaqing vanished from public view for about a month before it was disclosed that he was being investigated for corruption. The lack of explanation has also fostered a flood of unverified claims concerning his whereabouts. Some believe he has disobeyed the leadership, and there are even rumors of an affair with a well-known television personality.

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