China’s foreign minister sacked after disappearing for a month
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China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang has been sacked, putting an end to weeks of speculation over his future after rumours of a high-profile affair and a power struggle within the top ranks of the Chinese Communist Party.
Qin will be replaced by his predecessor Wang Yi, who could now take on two roles as Foreign Minister and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang.Credit: Reuters
Chinese state media reported President Xi Jinping “signed a presidential order to effectuate the decision” on Tuesday night after the National People’s Congress voted to remove Qin and the governor of the People’s Bank of China, Yi Gang, from their posts.
The emergency session was called on Monday. There was less than a day’s notice for China’s top legislature to review a draft criminal law amendment and the “decision on official appointment and removal”.
Qin was last seen on June 25 when he met with foreign ministers from Russia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
The 57-year-old rose rapidly in Beijing to become foreign minister less than two years after becoming ambassador to Washington.
Initially, Beijing said that Qin had been unwell but later refused to comment on his whereabouts.
After a month of speculation, Xi pulled the pin on Qin’s career on Tuesday night.
Qin has missed meetings with leaders from the US, Europe, South East Asia and the Pacific during that time. Rumours of an affair with Chinese state TV anchor Fu Xiaotian surfaced in April after she posted cryptic messages about her baby’s unidentified father on Chinese social media site Weibo.
Qin had also angered senior members of the Politburo and foreign affairs ministry through his quick rise and failure to turn around deteriorating relations with the US and Europe.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang YiCredit: Pool
But he had a powerful backer in Xi, who promoted him rapidly from foreign affairs spokesman to personal aide to foreign minister.
“This situation is a serious challenge because of his formerly close relationship with Xi,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation and expert on Chinese elite politics from Hong Kong.
“His helicopter ride to the top was made possible only because of Xi Jinping.”
The former ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu, is now expected to take on a more senior role as vice foreign minister.
Wang is now in charge of China’s top two diplomatic posts, making him responsible for both strategy and delivery.
The position will make him one of the most powerful foreign ministers in China’s history, but he will be serving under Xi, who could consolidate his position by moving decisively despite losing one of his most loyal lieutenants.
“For relations with the US, Europe, Asia or Australia, it will have a chilling effect,” said Lam. “Because it shows that foreign policy is subject to the whims of just one person.”
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