China removes foreign minister Qin Gang from office – a month after he mysteriously vanished amid rumours of an affair with well-known TV presenter
- Announcement on national news state broadcaster gave no reason for removal
- Qin vanished after rumours emerged he had an affair with presenter Fu Xiaotian
China has removed foreign minister Qin Gang from office today a month after he mysteriously vanished amid rumours of him having an affair with a well-known TV presenter.
China replaced Qin with his predecessor, Wang Yi, but state broadcaster CCTV gave no reason for his removal in the announcement on the national evening news.
The former foreign minister had dropped out of sight almost a month ago and the Foreign Ministry has provided no information about his status.
Qin vanished amid rumours he may have fallen foul of the communist state’s leadership due to an alleged affair with popular Chinese TV presenter Fu Xiaotian, 40, who has also not been seen for some time after a flirtatious interview between them resurfaced.
The Cambridge-educated presenter Fu frequently interviews China’s top officials and since a video of her interview with Qin in Washington DC in March 2022 went viral on social media, users noted the ‘affectionate flirting’ between the two.
China replaced Qin (pictured) with his predecessor, Wang Yi, in a move that has already fueled rumours over the personal lives and political rivalries of China’s Communist Party elite
Qin vanished amid rumours he may have fallen foul of the communist state’s leadership due to an alleged affair with Chinese TV presenter Fu Xiaotian, 40, who has also not been seen for some time after a flirtatious interview (pictured above) between them resurfaced
The Cambridge-educated presenter Fu (pictured) frequently interviews China’s top officials and since a video of her interview with Qin in Washington DC in March 2022 went viral on social media, users noted the ‘affectionate flirting’ between the two
This has caused rumours to circulate, especially in the Taiwan and Hong Kong press, that the Qin and Fu may have engaged in an affair.
Chinese human rights activist Lin Shengliang noted that Qin became China’s ambassador to the US in 2021. The supposedly ‘flirty’ interview took place in March 2022.
READ MORE: Top Chinese envoy vanishes amid rumours of an affair with well-known TV presenter
Fu then gave birth to her son in November of that year, who has also not been seen since his mother’s disappearance.
In her last social media post before she disappeared from public appearance, Fu shared pictures of a jet, a screen shot of the interview with Qin, and a picture of her with her son.
Engaging in affairs is not unusual for China’s top officials, but can be used as a pretext to remove those who have fallen foul of the leadership.
But not giving a reason for an official’s removal is in keeping with the ruling Communist Party’s standard approach to personnel matters within a highly opaque political system where the media and free speech are severely restricted.
The move comes amid a foreign backlash against China’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy, of which Qin was a chief proponent.
Adding to the mystery around Qin’s removal, it was approved at an unusually scheduled meeting of the Standing Committee of China’s rubber stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, which normally gathers at the end of the month.
Qin last appeared on camera at a meeting with Sri Lanka’s foreign minister in Beijing on June 25.
The Foreign Ministry at one point put his absence down to bad health, but swiftly scrubbed the reference from its official news conference transcript and has since said only that it had no information to report.
Qin’s previous tenure in the United States and his unexpected departure from the minister’s office throws additional glare on the troubled relationship between Washington and Beijing (pictured: Qin, right, meeting US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Beijing last month)
Social media users pointed towards ‘affectionate flirting’ that was seen between Qin and Fu in an interview in Washington DC in March last year
Wang had previously served as China’s top diplomat in his capacity as head of the party’s office of foreign affairs. Without other strong contenders, it appeared likely he would retain that position, at least in the short term.
The shakeup in China’s diplomatic lineup does not immediately indicate a change in foreign policy, including continued support for Russia’s war against Ukraine.
READ MORE: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds ‘candid’ talks with China’s foreign minister Qi Gang in June who has blasted U.S. for ‘malicious confrontation’ and raises ‘issues of concern’ during high-stakes talks in Beijing
Earlier in his career, Qin had served as ministry spokesperson, during which he gained a reputation for criticism of the West and rejection of all accusations against China.
That came to be known as ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy, after the name of a nationalistic movie franchise.
He later headed the ministry’s protocol department, during which he reportedly came to the attention of head of state and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping.
He was next appointed ambassador to Washington from July 2021 to this January, a relatively short term but which presaged his rise to the head of the Chinese diplomatic service.
Qin’s previous tenure in the United States and his unexpected departure from the minister’s office throws additional glare on the troubled relationship between Washington and Beijing.
Xi is the most authoritarian and nationalistic party head in decades and has taken a hard line on claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea and threats to attack the self-governing island democracy of Taiwan, while sternly rejecting foreign criticism of China’s crackdown on political and cultural expression against Muslim and Buddhist minorities and in the former British colony of Hong Kong.
During his time as spokesperson and minister, Qin defended those positions in terms that sometimes verged on the strident, saying in March that, ‘If the United States does not hit the brake, but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing and there surely will be conflict and confrontation.’
‘Such competition is a reckless gamble, with the stakes being the fundamental interests of the two peoples and even the future of humanity,’ Qin said.
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