According to state broadcaster CCTV, Qin Gang, who has not been seen in public since June, has been removed from his position as China’s foreign minister. The announcement of his removal came suddenly, following weeks of speculation about his fate. His absence has become a major crisis for Chinese President Xi Jinping since his third term began last year.
Wang Yi, Xi’s top foreign policy aide and the director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, has been appointed as the new foreign minister. Wang had been standing in as foreign minister for the past few weeks, participating in various diplomatic activities, including the ongoing Brics summit in South Africa and meetings with former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and John Kerry in China last week. Before Qin’s promotion in December, Wang had served as China’s foreign minister during Xi’s first and second term.
The decision to remove Qin from his post was made during a special session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which took place one day after the Politburo, the top decision-making body, convened on Monday.
Qin’s removal aligns with the Organic Law of the National People’s Congress, which came into effect in March 2021. The law grants the Standing Committee, rather than a national congress, the authority to appoint or remove certain members of the State Council.
Qin’s disappearance and the Chinese government’s secretive handling of the situation have raised concerns about the government’s credibility and its opaque decision-making process. Despite rumors and speculation, Beijing has been vague about Qin’s status, attributing his prolonged absence to unspecified “health reasons” since early July.
Once considered a trusted aide to the president, Qin rose rapidly through the ranks in the Chinese foreign ministry, serving as ministry spokesman, deputy foreign minister in charge of protocol and European affairs, and ultimately becoming the country’s second-ranking diplomat. He was appointed as China’s ambassador to the United States in July 2021 and later elevated to foreign minister and state councillor in March, a position ranking above a cabinet minister.