Qin Gang: China foreign minister’s removal sparks speculation
Speculation on Qin Gang remained rampant on Wednesday, a day after he was removed as China’s foreign minister just seven months into the job.
During an emergency meeting on Tuesday, Mr Qin’s removal was announced without explanation.
A reappointment has been made for Wang Yi, his predecessor.
The official silence over Mr Qin’s unexplained disappearance has sparked speculation both in and outside China.
There was a lot of speculation and search activity on Wednesday regarding his abrupt dismissal on social media.
Adding fuel to the fire was Tuesday’s announcement on state television that Wang Yi had been appointed foreign minister only by the country’s top legislature.
Observers say it is unusual for rumours about such a senior official to be discussed on the Chinese internet without complete censorship.
Despite the lack of censorship, people wonder whether rumours about power struggles, corruption, the abuse of power and positions, and romantic relationships are true, Ian Chong from the National University of Singapore told the BBC.
His wife and an alleged mistress appeared to be the most popular searches on Weibo.
As one of the youngest appointees to the post in China’s history, the 57-year-old was considered a close associate of President Xi Jinping.
Daniel Russel from the Asia Society Policy Institute says Qin Gang’s fall from grace was just as unexpected and abrupt as his elevation.
This episode will be viewed as an embarrassing lapse in judgment at the top since both moves are attributed to China’s leader.
A meteoric rise to the position of foreign minister marked Mr Qin’s career.
He became foreign minister last December after less than two years as ambassador to the US, where he gained a reputation as a tough-talking “wolf warrior” diplomat.
Prior to that, he was a foreign ministry spokesman and helped organize Mr Xi’s overseas trips, giving him the chance to work closely with the Chinese president.
A senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Ian Johnson, said the episode involving Mr Qin adds to Mr Xi’s “string of very public problems” in recent months.
Next March, the National People’s Congress will likely announce a new foreign minister, Mr Johnson said.
“That will give them time to vet everyone more carefully… and appoint someone else.”
In the Chinese Communist Party system, foreign policy is formulated by a high-level official, who then directs the foreign minister to implement it.
One of the most recognizable faces of the Chinese government was Qin Gang.
In a very brief explanation, he was unable to attend a summit in Indonesia a month ago due to unspecified health problems.