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China removes its outspoken foreign minister during a rough time in relations with the U.S.

July 26, 2023: On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government appointed the country’s top envoy Wang Yi to follow Qin Gang as foreign minister, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported, after the latter’s one-month absence.

Qin, aged 57, made his previous public appearance in Beijing on June 25, when he held talks with counterparts from Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and critical trade partner Russia. He progressively increased Beijing’s diplomatic service ranks, including a two-year stint as ambassador to the United States, before being encouraged to lead the Foreign Ministry in December.

Speculation over Qin’s longevity in the office climbed after a string of suspensions of public positions he was due to attend. Qin was scheduled to meet European Union’s unfamiliar policy head Josep Borrell earlier this month before China announced to the E.U. that the dates were “no longer possible,” reported.

He also failed to attend a July meeting of the ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations because of unspecified health reasons, a Chinese foreign affairs spokesperson said, according to Reuters.

Qin’s dismissal and the appointment of Wang, 69, followed an extraordinary session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s head legislative body.

″Qin he keeps his more senior position as a state councilor, So not 100% sure this is a purge,” Neil Thomas, the fellow on Chinese politics at the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis, said on X, previously known as Twitter. “Wang nowadays has two jobs. Could be a temporary arrangement.”

Wang takes the helm of the Foreign Ministry at a pivotal time for China’s foreign policy after Beijing renounced no-frills Covid-19 restrictions. The world’s second-largest economy has ramped up measures to stimulate growth after confirmed data showed China’s second-quarter GDP grew by 6.3% yearly, missing expectations of a 7.3% print.

It faces a challenging environment in trade diplomacy, with the U.S. and the E.U. pursuing de-risking methods of underestimating their dependencies on Beijing production and manufacturing.

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