Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang was sacked on Tuesday, in a rare political scandal involving a loyalist of President Xi Jinping.
Qin had disappeared from public view for more than three weeks, fueling speculation about his future. The new foreign minister will be Qin’s predecessor Wang Yi, according to state media CCTV.
The media report did not give a reason for the abrupt removal of Qin, who only took over the foreign ministry in December.
Qin, 57, a former ambassador to the United States, was quickly promoted when Xi formed a new team last year.
Qin’s Western counterparts have begun to build a working relationship with him in recent months. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her Dutch counterpart, Wopke Hoekstra, were among those who met with Qin in Beijing after the city reopened after the coronavirus pandemic.
The first sign of Qin’s disappearance came in Beijing canceled a visit by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell earlier this month, with EU diplomats initially informed that the Chinese official « tested positive » for the coronavirus.
The post of foreign minister, while crucial in external engagement, is not the most important role in China’s diplomatic system.
Wang, 69, who was reappointed on Tuesday, served as director of the Communist Party’s Foreign Affairs Committee while also serving as a member of the Politburo, making him essentially China’s most senior diplomat.
Initial speculation that Qin would be replaced by Deputy Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu or Liu Jianchao, head of the Communist Party’s international liaison department, failed to materialize, underlining Beijing’s preference for continuity.
Qin, for now, seems to retain the title of State Councilor. Beijing initially said it was absent from major diplomatic events for « health reasons ».
This article has been updated.