Qin Gang was removed as China’s foreign minister by order of President Xi Jinping after a special meeting of the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress was held Tuesday. His profile on the foreign ministry website was deleted, and the news about his dismissal was censored on the Chinese social media platform Weibo – suggesting that he was politically purged for reasons we don’t fully understand.
The Chinese State media hasn’t explained Qin’s removal, and the foreign ministry has cited health reasons for his long disappearance.
The rumours about Qin’s affairs with Phoenix Television journalist Fu Xiaotian have yet to be backed by any convincing evidence, but the style of Qin’s dismissal will continue to give air to such rumours for a long time. It’s hard to believe that Qin was merely dismissed because of health concerns because if that was the case, the Chinese government would have already announced it.
The information about the top leadership is sensitive—Qin was a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a State Councillor—which can explain the secrecy shrouding the former foreign minister’s dismissal from office.
Qin’s title as the State Councillor is kept intact, which has two implications — either the investigation against him was concluded with dismissal being the disciplinary action, or the inquiry is still underway. If Qin is removed as the State Councillor, which would be during the National People’s Congress (NPC) session, it would raise more questions about his fate.
In 2015, Qin took over the role of Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director of the Protocol Department from Zhang Kunsheng, who was dismissed from his position. Zhang was later sacked for corruption, but no formal charges were ever brought against him. At the time, Zhang became the most senior official to be dismissed under Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.
Qin’s meteoric rise after that has surprised many. But it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that he may have made some enemies in the meantime. Zhang’s dismissal gives us some hints about it.