- Qin Gang was totally out of picture since June 25.
- He replaced Wang Yi as foreign minister in December.
- In absence of Gang, Yi had been running ministry matters.
In a sudden reshuffling in the top leadership, the Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi replaced his successor Qin Gang as the Chinese foreign minister.
Qin Gang was appointed last December as a top diplomat of the country after he was serving as a Chinese ambassador to the US. In most of the recent official meetings and high-profile engagements, he was not seen including the foreign minister’s meeting of ASEAN.
While serving as ambassador to the US, Qin stepped up his visibility through public and media appearances in Washington in which he explained the Chinese position.
He kept up a busy schedule after his appointment as minister, visiting Africa, Europe, and Central Asia as well as hosting foreign dignitaries in Beijing.
Qin’s absence has left a vacuum at the top of China’s foreign ministry.
A visit by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to Beijing was abruptly called off this month.
Bloomberg reported Friday that a visit by UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was postponed due to Qin’s absence.
Top foreign policy official Wang Yi — who outranked Qin in China’s political hierarchy — took on some of his responsibilities in the meantime, travelling to Africa this week to attend a BRICS meeting on security affairs in Johannesburg.
Beijing insisted Monday that “China’s diplomatic activities are moving forward steadily”.
Asked about Qin’s now almost month-long absence, foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told journalists: “I have no information to offer.”
Where is Qin Gang?
Qin has not been seen in public since June 25, when he met Russia’s deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko in Beijing.
But it was his absence from a high-level ASEAN summit in Indonesia two weeks later that first raised concerns about him.
China’s foreign ministry said “health reasons” were to blame for Qin’s absence. But that has done little to convince.
“Everyone is concerned about something but cannot discuss it publicly,” Hu Xijin, a prominent commentator with the Global Times, said in a post on Weibo.
“A balance needs to be struck between maintaining the situation and respecting the public´s right to know,” he said.
The foreign ministry has since deflected further questions about Qin’s absence.