57-year-old Qin Gang was a rising star within the Chinese Communist Party. But no more. Until July 25th 2023 he was China's outspoken foreign minister. For a month previously, he had disappeared, with initial reports stating that his absence was due to an undisclosed health problem. During that period, China cancelled talks between Qin and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on July 4th, as EU diplomats were initially told that Qin had tested positive for coronavirus. Qin subsequently missed high-level meetings with United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and US climate envoy John Kerry. Then at the end of July official sources announced that he had been removed from office.
CCTV simply declared that:
“The fourth session of the Standing Committee of the 14th National People’s Congress, which took place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 25th July, voted to remove Qin Gang from the post of foreign minister he held, and to appoint Wang Yi as the foreign minister. President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order to effectuate the decision.”
Qin was a Tianjin native who served in the Chinese government from the late 1980s, mostly in roles related to foreign affairs. He was fast-tracked promoted over more experienced candidates to be the Chinese ambassador to the US and then to be foreign minister in December 2022. He was made a member of China’s cabinet, the State Council, in March 2023. So he was sacked within eight months of being appointed.
Wang Yi, 69, who served in Qin’s position for nearly 10 years from 2013, was reappointed on Tuesday. Wang is the most senior Chinese diplomat and a member of the Chinese Communist party’s elite 24-member politburo.
The failure to announce any reason for Qin’s removal invited speculation. At least three theories were prevalent:
- Firstly, in recent years, Qin was seen as exemplifying Beijing’s turn towards aggressive so-called ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy. Did Qin take that aggression too far? That is unlikely.
- Secondly, there was speculation over his personal affairs, with rumours of an affair with a state broadcaster. If so, that would be embarrassing given the party’s moralising political education campaign.
- Thirdly, that he is the victim of political rivalries. Qin was handpicked by Xi Jinping for the foreign minister role and was a trusted subordinate of Xi. Any idea of an attack on Xi from inside the party does not seem likely at this time.
The Eurasia Group stated that "Qin's disappearance has curtailed China's diplomatic activity over the last month but will have little impact on the country's foreign policy or present meaningful reputational risks for Xi”. However, the timing is not ideal as China prepares for a potential meeting between Xi and President Joe Biden in November at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the US.
Joseph Torigian summed up the situation: “For the outside world, it was a reminder of the opacity of China’s system. For literally the face of the country (the foreign minister) to disappear in this particular way, it really accentuates the difficulties that people outside the country have when they are trying to figure out what is going on within it.”
- Pray for Qin Gang to encounter the Lord as he faces this disgrace and loss of power and position.
- Pray for Wang Yi as he takes over the important foreign minister position.
- Pray for foreign leaders in their dealing with China to have wisdom in working with this Chinese political “opacity”.