Disappearance of Chinese foreign minister

ByElsa Sc S

Doing her graduation from LUMS & a keen researcher


August 2, 2023

Chinese Foreign Minister

Elsa Sc S mentions a surprising development

Chinese Foreign Minister – It is not uncommon for prominent figures in China to suddenly vanish from the public eye, only to reemerge later without clear explanations. Even President Xi himself once disappeared for a fortnight shortly before taking the top job as leader in 2012. Yet in such case eyebrows are raised eliciting comments from circles far and wide. In most countries, it would be unthinkable for a top government official to vanish for 26 days with no explanation but that is exactly what has happened in China, where Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s disappearance highlights just how secretive Xi Jinping’s regime has become. This is a problem not only for China itself but also for all who engage with the government in Beijing.
Qin, a close confidant of Xi who rose swiftly through the diplomatic ranks, has not been seen in public since 25 June and after he missed several high-level diplomatic meetings, China’s foreign ministry said in an 11 July news conference that Qin was suffering from a physical condition. That explanation, however, is missing from the ministry’s transcript of the news conference. Responding to reports that Qin was caught having an extramarital affair with a Chinese reporter while he was ambassador to Washington, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on 17 July that he has no information to offer. Pressed on Qin’s whereabouts, the new Chinese ambassador Qie referred questioners back to the foreign ministry’s non-answer.

At the relatively young age of 57, he became one of the youngest foreign ministers when he assumed office in December. He was, at the time, widely regarded as a trusted confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping.His disappearance has brought up difficult questions for Beijing, both inside and outside of China. His absence was officially addressed for the first time when it was announced that he would not be attending the ASEAN foreign minister’s summit in Indonesia for health reasons. Beijing instead sent its top diplomat Wang Yi — Qin’s predecessor who also ranks above him in the hierarchy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — to take part in the meetings.

But Qin’s situation is quite unusual due to his position and the timing of his absence as being the Chinese Foreign Minister, he needs to appear frequently on the international stage, especially at a time when China’s diplomatic schedule is extremely full. Facing a slower-than-expected economic recovery after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the world’s second-largest economy is scrambling to reach out and attract investments with a flurry of diplomatic engagements.Given the circumstances, it is observed that the unexplained absence of a high-ranking official like a foreign minister implied a failure in China’s diplomacy that could even trigger discontent with the government among domestic companies.
The disappearance of one of the most prominent figures in Chinese political circles has of course also not gone unnoticed outside of China. A meeting between Qin and the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell had to be postponed. The visit, planned to take place two weeks ago, was called off by Beijing just two days before Borrell’s arrive, according to Reuters. Qin also missed out on high-profile talks this month between Chinese and US officials, including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Climate Envoy John Kerry. When asked whether Qin would join Wang Yi at the BRICS summit next month in South Africa — as well as visits to Nigeria, Kenya and Turkey — Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao said that there was nothing more to add to the line-up for Yang’s trip.

The mystery of Qin’s whereabouts and status has sparked fevered speculation among diplomats, political analysts and even the Chinese public. Overseas Chinese commentators have also floated theories that Qin’s troubles might be related to an alleged affair with a TV presenter but this story lacks evidence. However, many believe that whether Qin will reappear safely is no longer the point. The unfolding episode itself already speaks volumes about the current state of Xi’s rule as the abrupt disappearance of Qin is highly troublesome since it indicates that Beijing may be moving closer to a mystical and unpredictable form of autocratic leadership.

When Xi Jinping started his unprecedented third term as China’s president, he surrounded himself with loyalists to form a strong political inner circle with Qin being counted among them. Qin was appointed to his role after serving less than two years as China’s ambassador to the US. Beijing had hoped he would play a crucial role in stabilising its relations with Washington. But these expectations were not met as reports of a Chinese spy balloon over the US caused tensions between the two powers. Disputes over chip export controls imposed by the US and its allies have only exacerbated the situation. It is therefore pointed out that if there is still no sight of Qin by the end of the month, then it could well be concluded that his political career is over. The Weekender


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