China made a surprising move by replacing its outspoken foreign minister Qin Gang on Tuesday. Raising questions and speculations about the state of affairs within the nation’s Communist Party elite. Qin Gang, who held the position for less than a year, was unexpectedly removed and succeeded by his predecessor, Wang Yi. In a development that has left many wondering about the reasons behind the decision.
The replacement of Qin Gang with Wang Yi does not seem to signal any major shift in China’s hard-edged foreign policy. It has been a hallmark of Xi Jinping’s leadership. President Xi oversees the world’s second-largest economy and presides over a nation that stands as the primary rival to the US in terms of international influence. U.S. officials have commented on Qin’s departure, indicating that it is unlikely to alter China’s foreign policy stance.
The announcement of Qin Gang’s removal was made on the national evening news by state broadcaster CCTV. But no specific reason was given for the decision. Almost immediately, all mentions and photos of him were erased from the Foreign Ministry’s website. However, he was still referred to as a Cabinet-level state councillor on the central government’s main site. Suggesting that his political career may not be entirely over.
The timing of Qin Gang’s removal adds to the intrigue. As it was approved during an unusually scheduled meeting of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. This has led to speculation about potential behind-the-scenes developments related to Qin, including swirling rumours on Chinese websites about his personal life, overall policy, or a combination of factors.
Wang Yi replaces Qin Gang
Qin Gang hails from a powerful family of party luminaries and was last seen on camera in Beijing during a meeting with Sri Lanka’s foreign minister on June 25. His absence was initially attributed to health issues. But this explanation was later removed from the Foreign Ministry’s official news conference transcript without further explanation.
Wang Yi, Qin’s predecessor and now replacement, had previously served as China’s top diplomat while heading the party’s Office of foreign affairs. Given the lack of strong contenders for the position, it appears likely that he will retain his role at least in the short term. On Tuesday, he was engaged in diplomatic meetings in South Africa and was scheduled to travel to Turkey on Wednesday.
While the diplomatic lineup shakeup in China does not necessarily signal a shift in foreign policy. It comes amidst increasing foreign backlash against the nation’s aggressive stances. These include China’s support for Russia in its conflict with Ukraine. The signing of a secretive security pact with the Solomon Islands could grant a military foothold in the South Pacific. And the rejection of demands for greater transparency regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic that began in China.
Qin Gang had earned a reputation during his previous role as ministry spokesperson for “wolf warrior” diplomacy. Characterised by criticism of the West and rejection of all accusations against China. Amidst ongoing tensions with the US over trade, human rights, technology, Taiwan, and territorial claims in the South China Sea. China’s foreign policy remains under scrutiny as the nation navigates its place on the world stage.