Qin Gang’s Records Deleted From Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Website

Ichiro Ohara / The Yomiuri Shimbun
The website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which no longer displays search results for Qin Gang, is seen in this photo taken on Wednesday.

BEIJING — Speculation is rising that former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang was removed over a scandal of some kind, as the ministry took the unusual step of deleting records of Qin’s activities from its website.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration has not spoken publicly about the circumstances of Qin’s dismissal. By naming Wang Yi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, as Qin’s successor, the Xi administration is apparently trying to reset the country’s diplomacy.

At a regular press conference on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning did not respond to questions about the circumstances surrounding Qin’s dismissal. Mao only reiterated that China’s diplomatic activities were moving forward in a stable manner.

Qin debuted as foreign minister in December with much fanfare, as a centerpiece of Beijing’s “great power diplomacy,” but has not made any diplomatic appearances since June 26. Beijing’s diplomacy had stagnated as a result.

On June 18, Qin met with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing. In response to Blinken’s request to visit the United States, Qin expressed a positive attitude, saying he would like to do so at a convenient time. However, after that, Qin disappeared from the public stage, and coordination for his U.S. visit had not progressed.

On April 2, Qin met with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi in Beijing. According to diplomatic protocol, Qin is next to visit Japan, but that trip has not taken place.

The Xi administration apparently hopes to reestablish the diplomatic order by reappointing Wang, China’s top diplomat, who served as foreign minister for 10 years.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss issues including China’s Belt and Road Initiative aimed at creating a huge economic zone.

With the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where Turkish minorities live, in mind, Wang elicited an assurance from Fidan that his country will not tolerate activities in Turkey that destroy the integrity of Chinese territory.”

However, the fact that the Xi administration continues to avoid giving a clear explanation about Qin’s absence highlights what a diplomatic source called an “extreme degree of secrecy.” This may have an impact on Beijing’s diplomacy.

Qin is believed to retain his status as a state councilor, a top-ranking official equivalent to deputy prime minister. However, the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao said, “No one believes he can fulfill his duties.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website contained virtually no mention of Qin’s name, and information about the meeting between the Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers in early April has also disappeared.

“If he was dismissed due to a scandal or health reasons, it’s strange that China is going this far,” a diplomatic source in Beijing said. “[Qin] may have been involved in political or other matters that [the Xi administration] cannot overlook.”