“China’s top legislature voted to appoint Wang Yi as foreign minister… as it convened a session on Tuesday,” state media outlet Xinhua said. “Qin Gang was removed from the post of foreign minister.” No reason was given for Qin’s removal, however, state media reported that President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order to enact the decision.
Appointed as foreign minister in December 2022, Qin has not been seen in public since June 25, when he met Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko in Beijing. After Qin missed an international diplomatic summit in Indonesia, China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said his absence was due to unspecified health problems.
However, the lack of detail as to Qin’s whereabouts has fueled speculation that he has fallen out with Chinese leadership, or was subject to an official investigation. On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said it had “no information” to offer about Qin’s status. China’s Communist Party is notoriously opaque on internal personnel matters, and media and free speech are both heavily restricted in the country.
As the leader of the Communist Party’s foreign affairs commission, Wang Yi outranks Qin in China’s government hierarchy and he had taken on Qin’s duties over the past month. Wang held the foreign minister role between 2018 and 2022.
The diplomatic shakeup comes as China and the US work on repairing a tense relationship with divisions on trade, human rights, technology, Taiwan and Beijing’s territorial claims. High ranking Chinese diplomats have also visited European countries recently in a bid to patch ties. However, Qin’s absence has left a gap at the top of China’s foreign ministry. This month, a visit to Beijing by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Joesep Borrell, was called off. On Friday, Bloomberg reported that a UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly postponed a visit to Beijing this month due to Qin’s absence.
A fluent English speaker, Qin was China’s ambassador to the US from July 2021, to January 2023. He has also been considered by analysts as one of President Xi’s most trusted foreign policy advisers, which was made evident by the speed at which he rose through the ranks as US ambassador and foreign minister. Qin is known as a proponent of China’s aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomacy, and for his outspoken defense of China’s assertive foreign policy.