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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

China announces new foreign minister

Wang Yi has returned to replace Qin Gang, who spent just seven months in office

China has announced the replacement of Foreign Minister Qin Gang with his predecessor, Wang Yi, who previously served in the role for almost a decade.

The decision was confirmed on Tuesday during a meeting of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. As well as replacing Qin, the committee appointed a new governor of the People’s Bank of China. The gathering appeared to have been expedited as the body typically convenes at the very end of the month.

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Neither the committee nor the Chinese Foreign Ministry provided any explanation for the reshuffle.

The move means Qin has become China’s shortest-serving foreign minister, with his tenure lasting less than seven months. He had already been absent from public view for around a month, and skipped a meeting of leading diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) earlier in July for what were described as “health reasons.” 

Arguably the most notable event of Qin’s short-lived tenure were the talks in June with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who became the most senior American official to visit Beijing since President Joe Biden took office in 2021. However, the two sides did not report any major breakthroughs as a result of the discussions.

Blinken’s visit was soon undermined by comments from Biden, who branded Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator” just days after the US diplomat had returned from the trip. China expressed “strong dissatisfaction and opposition” over Biden’s remarks, describing them as a “blatant political provocation.”

Qin was elevated to the role of foreign minister on December 30, 2022, having served as China’s ambassador to Washington for around 18 months. He replaced veteran diplomat Wang, who had led China’s Foreign Ministry since 2013.

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At the time, Wang assumed another senior diplomatic role as director of the Communist Party’s Central Committee Foreign Affairs Commission Office. Thus far it remains unclear if Wang will retain that post alongside his position as foreign minister.