New Delhi: After nearly a month of mystery and speculations over his absence from the public eye, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, 57, was removed from his post Tuesday. Qin had held the post for seven months, and has been replaced by his predecessor Wang Yi, 69.
There was no official word on why Qin was removed. He continues in his post as state councillor, to which he was appointed in March this year.
On 11 July, the Chinese foreign ministry cited health reasons for Qin skipping the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, but no other details or updates were given for his absence. His last public appearance was at a 25 June meeting in Beijing with senior diplomats from Vietnam, Russia and Sri Lanka.
A former ambassador to the US, Qin is known to be a close confidant of President Xi Jinping and has a fierce reputation for being a leading figure in pushing China’s wolf-warrior diplomacy. Wolf-warrior diplomacy is an unofficial term for China’s assertive and often hostile style of diplomacy wherein diplomats use combative and confrontational tactics to defend Chinese interests in the international sphere.
In December last year, Qin, often referred to as ‘Warrior Gang’ at the Chinese foreign ministry, became one of the youngest men to be appointed the foreign minister.
Rise to power
Born in 1966 in the northern city of Tianjin, Qin grew up when China was experiencing the cultural revolution under Mao Zedong aimed at strengthening the communist regime. He studied international politics at the foreign ministry’s Institute of International Relations, and began working in the bureau for diplomatic missions in Beijing at the age of 22, according to media reports.
He had a stint at the Chinese Embassy in the UK before becoming the foreign affairs ministry spokesperson from 2006 to 2014, where he was known to reprimand journalists at press conferences, even asking a reporter whether he was a “mature adult” and warning others not to “report based on your delusions”. As the spokesperson, Qin aggressively defended China’s assertive foreign policy strategies across the globe.
He became China’s ambassador to the US in July 2021, when bilateral relations were in a shambles.
During his tenure, he used soft power strategies and public diplomacy, such as meeting business leaders like Elon Musk and travelling across the US to influence views on China and promote a trustworthy image of the country. Yet, little changed, as Beijing and Washington continued to be at odds over issues including trade, technology, and the self-ruled, democratic island of Taiwan.
As foreign minister, Qin took strong stances on issues such as Taiwan and ties with Russia. He also referred to US-China relations as a “zero-sum game where you die and I live” in his first media appearance as the foreign minister earlier this year.
In his first public speech in Beijing, he accused Washington of creating a crisis over Taiwan, and criticised its sanctions against Chinese state companies as well as using the Indo-Pacific strategy to “encircle China”.
“The US Indo-Pacific strategy, which purportedly aims at upholding freedom and openness, maintaining security and promoting prosperity in the region, is in fact an attempt to gang up to form exclusive blocs to provoke confrontation by plotting an Asia-Pacific version of NATO,” he said.
“No Cold War should be reignited and no Ukraine-style crisis should be repeated in Asia,” Qin said.
Since his mysterious disappearance from the public eye beginning 25 June, there has been intense speculation in the media. Rumours include an alleged extramarital affair with television journalist Fu Xiaotian, who is a US citizen, with reports claiming they had a child together. The Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection had also questioned Qin on the matter, according to reports in the local media.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)