Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang was relieved of his duties on Tuesday after an extended absence from the public arena. He was replaced by his predecessor in a surprising and highly unusual shift in China’s foreign policy.
The sudden decision, approved by the highest decision-making body of the Chinese Parliament, comes as mystery hangs over the fate of Qin, who has not been seen in public for a month.
The announcement was made by the Chinese news agency Chine Nouvelle, but no reason was given. Qin, 57, a career diplomat and trusted aide to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, was only appointed foreign minister in December 2022 after serving as China’s ambassador to Washington.
The diplomat has not been seen since June 25 and a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart in Beijing. He missed several diplomatic meetings, including an important meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Indonesia in early July.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had justified this absence of Qin Gang by “reasons of health”.
His predecessor Wang Yi, who handled diplomatic issues within the Chinese Communist Party (a hierarchical rank higher than that of minister), has resumed his former post.