Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, speaks while holding a copy of the constitution during a press conference in Beijing, China, Tuesday, March 7, 2023.
Qilai Shen | Mayor Bloomberg | fake images
Xi Jinping’s administration in Beijing has appointed China’s top diplomat Wang Yi to replace Qin Gang as foreign minister, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday, after the latter’s absence for a month.
No reason was given for the dismissal.
Qin, 57, made his last public appearance in Beijing on June 25, when he held talks with his counterparts from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and key trading partner Russia. He rose steadily through the ranks of Beijing’s diplomatic service, including a two-year stint as ambassador to the United States, before being promoted to head the Foreign Ministry in December.
Speculation about Qin’s longevity in office increased after a series of suspensions from public functions he was required to attend. Qin was scheduled to meet the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, earlier this month, before China informed the EU that the dates were “no longer possible.” Reuters reported.
He also did not attend a July meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers for unspecified health reasons, a Chinese foreign affairs spokesman said, according to Reuters.
Qin’s removal and the appointment of Wang, 69, followed an extraordinary session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body.
“[Qin] he maintains his highest position as state councilor, so I’m not 100% sure this is a purge,” Neil Thomas, China policy fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis, said in X, formerly known as Twitter. “Wang now has two jobs. It could be a temporary arrangement.”
Wang takes the helm of the Foreign Ministry at a crucial moment in China’s foreign policy, after Beijing gave up spartan Covid-19 restrictions earlier this year. The world’s second-largest economy has stepped up measures to stimulate growth after official data showed China’s second-quarter GDP expanded 6.3% year-on-year, below expectations of 7.3%.
In trade diplomacy, it faces a challenging environment, with the US and EU pursuing risk-off policies to minimize their reliance on production and manufacturing in Beijing.
Xi Jinping’s administration has also sought to raise its profile in international mediation: It brokered talks that resulted in a decision for arch-rival Middle Eastern nations Saudi Arabia and Iran to revive relations in March. Beijing also unveiled a 12-point peace plan to resolve the kyiv-Moscow conflict on the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. While the proposal has yet to gain traction, several European leaders have pleaded with China to appeal to Russia to end hostilities.
“Wang Yi is the safest option possible. Well known around the world, he will project continuity in Chinese foreign policy. Xi needs to reassure the world that there is no deep problem in Chinese leadership,” said Dennis Wilder, a professor of Asian studies at Georgetown University. said in X.