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China’s Foreign Minister Is Removed After a Month of Silence

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Just five weeks ago, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang was at the center of a major reset of US-China relations. In Beijing, he shook hands with Secretary of State Anthony J. Brinken and accepted an invitation to visit the United States.

But in a display of the fickleness of China’s elite politics, Qin was abruptly dismissed as foreign minister on Tuesday after disappearing from public view for 30 days. The move ended the career of a diplomat who rose to the top as one of President Xi Jinping’s most trusted rising stars.

“The suddenness and uncertainty surrounding Qin’s dismissal show the instability that now characterizes the Chinese political system under Xi,” said Jude Blanchett, chairman of China Studies Freeman at the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mr. Hata formally decided that He was sacked and replaced by former foreign minister Wang Yi, ending weeks of speculation about his fate. China’s foreign ministry initially claimed Qin had health problems.but brief notice A report by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which formally appoints government officials to the council of China’s legislature, did not mention health or other reasons.

The lack of clarity is sure to fuel speculation among Chinese commentators about the circumstances behind the most dramatic recent downfall of a senior Chinese official. His fate has been the subject of much speculation on social media, with many commentators focusing on his personal life and possible volatile relationships while he was US ambassador.

Whatever the veracity of these theories, Mr. Qin’s downfall is an embarrassing moment for Mr. Xi, who rose ahead of other senior diplomats to a powerful role as minister.

“If people want a widescreen display of the opacity of China’s institutions and how it can, even temporarily, impede policy implementation, here’s a prime example.” Richard McGregorsaid a senior fellow at Sydney’s Loewy Institute, which studies China’s foreign policy, in a telephone interview. Still, he added, Mr. Xi was too powerful to take much damage from Mr. Qin’s downfall.

“If the rumors have any substance, they serve as a reminder that private life can be regulated in the party system as much as public affairs,” McGregor said. “But in this case, the ambassador’s conduct has implications for national security.”

Mr. Qin, 57, was appointed China’s ambassador to Washington in July 2021, and 17 months later he was selected as Mr. Xi’s trusted protégé and promoted to foreign minister. Late Thursday night, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs removed Qin’s page and his details from its website. However, there was still no mention of his successor Mr. Wang.

Bonnie Glazer, managing director of the Indo-Pacific program at the German Marshall Foundation in the United States, said Qin’s dismissal was “an indication of Xi’s bad judgment and error”, otherwise the appointment of Wang was a “wise move” that would help stabilize China’s diplomacy.

Qin’s successor, Wang, is believed to be safe after last month’s closed-door drama. Mr. Wang, 69, is a senior diplomat and head of the Office of the Communist Party of China’s Foreign Relations Commission, and a key policy adviser to Mr. Xi. He is also a member of the Politburo, a council of 24 of China’s top officials.

Mr. Wang served as foreign minister until Mr. Qin was appointed at the end of last year. But Wang has had difficult recent meetings with Biden administration officials, which could complicate his mandate to try to defuse tensions. Wang and Blinken held a controversial meeting in February at a security conference in Munich after a US military plane shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon over the United States.

“China’s leadership appears to have determined that the situation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is so serious that the person already entrusted with the position cannot be trusted,” it said. Christopher K. Johnson, chairman of the China Strategic Group and former Central Intelligence Agency China political analyst. “We’ve seen this pattern before in large-scale incidents where Politburo officers have been brought in to stabilize ships and purge Ogean Stables. I think that’s the mandate for Mr. Wang.”

In public, Mr. Qin appeared to have unrelenting loyalty to Mr. Xi. Mr. Hata previously served as spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a diplomat in London, and a protocol official, and this job often allowed him to become close to Mr. Xi when he traveled abroad.Qin Graduated from University of International Relationsgraduated from a Beijing school associated with China’s security services, and worked as an assistant at the Beijing bureau of United Press International before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1992.

As foreign minister since the end of 2022, Qin has spearheaded efforts to rescue China from the diplomatic isolation of the coronavirus pandemic and to ease tensions with the United States and other Western countries. But he also belligerently endorsed Mr. Xi’s vision of seeing China as a confident great power, was impatient with criticism from other governments, and missed few opportunities to praise Mr. Xi.

“Mankind is once again at the crossroads of history.” Qin said at a press conference. in Beijing in March. “President Xi Jinping has set the right path for global governance from the heights of the world, history and humanity.”

Belarusian diplomat Pavel Srankin said Mr. Qin was thoroughly methodical as Mr. Xi’s protocol officer. Involved in arranging Xi’s visit Mr. Srankin said Mr. Qin called him around 2 a.m. during the visit and asked him to go immediately to the museum Mr. Xi was planning to visit. That way, Mr. Qin can double-check every detail of the plan, including exactly when the music will play when Mr. Xi climbs the stairs.

“His subordinates and embassy officials were afraid to approach him, so communication with him was strictly hierarchical,” said Mr. Srankin, now a working man. Visitor In an email response to a question at the European Council on Foreign Relations, he said of Hata: He said Qin “obviously enjoyed his special position near Mr. Xi’s body.”

Additional Reporter Keith Bradshire

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