Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang

Chinese Foreign Minister Disappears

4 September 2023

4.3 MINS

The announcement about the removal of China’s foreign minister from his post could not have been more perfunctory.

After his having not been sighted for a month, Chinese state media finally made an announcement about the fate of Qin Gang.

“China’s top legislature convened a session on Tuesday to review a draft criminal law amendment and a decision on official appointment and removal,” reported the Global Times. “Qin Gang has been relieved of his position as Foreign Minister. Wang Yi was appointed as the Chinese Foreign Minister. Tuesday’s decision has not touched on Qin’s title of State Councillor.”

Rumours about the fate of Qin had swept the web for weeks.

The most persistent was that Qin was having an affair with Fu Xiaotian, the high-profile Phoenix television reporter, who, along with her son, has also disappeared. Phoenix is a state-owned broadcaster with headquarters in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Fu, who studied at Cambridge, is said to have links with the British intelligence.

The disappearance of the Chinese foreign minister and the recent removal of senior Chinese officers in the country’s strategic missile command suggests all is not well in China. The Chinese government has not denied rumours of an affair between Qin and Fu.

There may however be more significant reasons for Qin’s removal, given it is not uncommon for senior CCP officials to have mistresses.

His apology following the US shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon was viewed dimly by Xi in Beijing and may have led to deeper suspicions about his loyalty to the regime.

Qin had only been in the position for seven months, having been appointed as the Chinese Foreign Minister, according to a decision made by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, on December 30, 2022.

The last time Qin made a public appearance was on June 25 for meetings with the Russian, Vietnamese and Sri Lankan foreign ministers, according to media reports.

On July 11, the Chinese foreign ministry announced Qin would not attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Indonesia for health reasons.

Qin was scheduled to visit Australia to participate in the China-Australia Foreign and Strategic Dialogue, which was postponed after he disappeared.

Within an hour of his dismissal, all references to Qin were erased from the foreign ministry website. Curiously, some were reinstated a few days later!

Trusted Comrade

Qin had risen through the CCP ranks under Xi Jinping. He was promoted to the director-general of the information department of the ministry in 2011 after he finished his tenure as a minister of the Chinese Embassy in the UK from 2010 to 2011. In 2014, he became the director-general of the protocol department of the ministry.

Qin was promoted to the vice-minister of the Foreign Ministry in 2018, and three years later became the Chinese Ambassador to the US. He arrived in the US in July 2021 to take his post in Washington DC.

It was in this role that he gained a reputation as one of the loudest ‘wolf warriors’ globally, aggressively promoting the CCP and denouncing any perceived criticisms of the regime.

Handpicked by Xi Jinping to become foreign minister, Qin was a confidant of the Chinese leader.

His downfall is a significant embarrassment to the Beijing regime. Significantly, Qin is one of China’s princelings — the descendants of the generation of Communist Party leaders who brought the regime to power. Like Xi, a second-generation princeling, Qin is a fourth-generation princeling. His rapid promotion was a mark of his standing in dynastic China. It is now a cause of significant embarrassment and possibly points to another internecine war within the CCP.

Not long after Qin’s appointment, former foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, lost his position. Zhao was a confidant of Xie Feng, the former deputy minister, who was moved to Washington to replace Qin. What role the likes of Xie had to play in Qin’s downfall remains unknown.

No doubt Xi Jinping will ride out this latest fiasco, despite the fact that he personally changed the rules to appoint Qin as the regime’s foreign minister. Although the CCP regards the removal as simply an internal issue, it adds to growing perceptions about the reliability of dealings with China.

The irony is that Qin had been a central official in China’s security and foreign apparatus, rising through the ranks to his recent position. For someone relatively young at 57 to have been elevated to such a high office, Qin would have attracted a sizeable group of enemies during his ascendency.

Latest Casualty

Qin is just one high-profile Chinese official to ‘disappear’ in recent years.

Bao Fan, a financier and chairman of China Renaissance Holdings Ltd, has been missing since February. It was reported that he had “become unavailable” and later that he was “assisting in an investigation”.

Bao Fan joins actress Fan Bingbing, tycoon Xiao Jianhua, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, and other business leaders, such as Yim Fung and Mao Xiaofeng, who have gone missing while under some form of investigation, as well as others, such as former Interpol chairman Meng Hongwei and Supreme Court judge Wang Linqing.

A system for detaining Party members being investigated for alleged crimes, political offences, and similar allegations, called Shuanggui has existed since 1990 in regulated form, but goes back further than that. The system is run by a Party agency, the Central Commission for Discipline.

At the National People’s Congress in March 2018, the system underwent a revamp with the establishment of the National Supervision Commission (NSC), and the form for this type of detention morphed into Liuzhi (or “retention in custody”).

With this change, placement into this type of secret detention was given additional codification in law, and the scope of those that the NSC can investigate — and take into Liuzhi — swelled. It had previously been limited to Party members, but now includes State functionaries, managers of State-Owned Enterprises, universities and schools, hospitals, and all other public bodies, such as the State-owned media.

In addition, Liuzhi has also been used on those providing a service, for example, a contractor, to a Party or State entity. In addition, though not codified in law, it can and has been used to detain those related to a case who are not themselves being targeted by an investigation.

According to research by the Human Rights organisation Safeguard Defenders, tens of thousands of people have been detained secretly under the system.

Whether Qin reappears at some stage in the future, or is put on trial for breach of national security laws or for corruption, remains to be seen.

His downfall reflects the ongoing contest within the CCP for internal power, and the fact that no one is safe from arbitrary detention in Xi Jinping’s China.


Originally published in the Epoch Times Australia. Photo: Smithsonian National Zoo/Wikimedia Commons

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One Comment

  1. Jim Twelves 4 September 2023 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Kevin, thank you for this. I am thrilled that you are keeping watch on the Chinese pulse in these days.

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