One month after he was last seen in public, Qin Gang was removed from his post as China’s foreign minister. The news sent shockwaves around the world, but it came with no explanation — and experts say we may never get one. On Tuesday, China’s state-run press agency, Xinhua, said simply that the country’s “top legislature voted to appoint Wang Yi as foreign minister” and that “Qin Gang was removed from the post.” Wang, a veteran of the Chinese government, previously held the role of foreign minister from 2013 to 2022.
As of press time, references to Qin had been removed from the foreign ministry’s website. China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider. Because of the opacity of the Chinese government, few people will ever know what led to Qin’s abrupt departure, experts say.
“So much remains unknown about Qin’s case that it is impossible to answer this question with precision,” Jeremy Chan, a consultant for Eurasia Group, told Insider. “However, the way in which the government has handled the Qin affair so far indicates that we are unlikely to ever get a full accounting of the reasons for his disappearance.”
Chong Ja Ian, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, told Insider that the lack of clarity “is part of the opacity and uncertainty” in China.
“I suppose the whole incident is a visible reminder of the arbitrariness of the PRC system,” Chong added.
However, some believe that the details surrounding Qin’s removal could be revealed in due course. “I think at some point, we will hear from Beijing. It is not good from Beijing’s perspective for speculation and rumors to be flying so wildly over Qin’s disappearance and the reasons for his disappearance,” Dylan Loh, an assistant professor at the Nanyang Technological University, told Insider. “Of course, when and in what form this accounting will take place is entirely Beijing’s prerogative,” Loh added.
Qin’s removal comes after weeks of speculation following his disappearance in June. He was last seen publicly on June 25, when he held meetings with diplomats from Russia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. Wang Wenbin, a foreign ministry spokesperson, said in a press briefing on July 11 that Qin was unable to attend a diplomatic gathering in Indonesia “due to health reasons.” Wang’s remarks were widely reported by international outlets, but they were conspicuously absent in the briefing’s official transcript.
There were also rumors that Qin was having an affair with Fu Xiaotian, a Chinese journalist and presenter. Some even speculated that Qin had fathered a love child with Fu, after she posted a photo of her son, Er-Kin, on Twitter in April. Fu has not commented publicly on the matter.
Qin’s sudden ouster comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and China. In February, the US shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon and in May, there was a near-miss confrontation between two military planes over the South China Sea.