Where's Qin Gang? China foreign minister not seen in a month amid affair rumours

By India Today World Desk: Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, a trusted aide of President Xi Jinping, has been absent from public view for nearly a month now, sparking intense speculation about his whereabouts, once again highlighting China’s secrecy. His last public engagement was a meeting with visiting Russian, Sri Lankan and Vietnamese officials on June 25. Then he disappeared.

The last time the 57-year-old rising star of Chinese politics disappeared from public view was just for eight days over the Lunar New Year Holiday.

Qin Gang was replaced as head of Beijing’s delegation to the Asean summit in Indonesia. Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at that time that Qin would not go “due to health reasons” but gave no details.

Talks between the foreign minister and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell were then also pushed back as China informed the EU the dates were no longer possible. Beijing did not provide any explanation for this.

The EU was informed of the postponement just two days before Borrell’s scheduled arrival in Beijing, a source told Reuters.

The speculation was fuelled when Qin Gang was once again missing from President Xi’s meeting with former Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.He did not join Chinese officials at talks with the Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, in early July, or as part of the ongoing visit by climate envoy John Kerry.

Almost a month on, he still remains missing and China has not spoken about this. The discussion about his absence was apparently censored on the Chinese social media site Weibo. A search for “where is Qin Gang” on the platform returning the message “no results”, The Guardian reported.

Searches for “Qin Gang” on the Baidu search engine have increased 28-fold in the past week to more than 380,000 a day, according to platform data, Reuters reported.

Qin’s absence has also been widely discussed in the diplomatic community, with some saying it is another example of China’s lack of transparency.

“Given China’s status and influence in the world, it’s indeed very strange that its foreign minister has not appeared in public for more than 20 days,” said Deng Yuwen, a former editor of a Communist Party newspaper who now lives in the US, told CNN.


Rumours about Qin Gang having an affair with a journalist, Fu Xiaotian, might be the reason behind his absence, The New York Times reported.

China’s ruling Communist Party officially bans cadres from having extramarital relationships, and its discipline watchdog often cites affairs when charging senior officials with corruption. However, former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli still appeared at last year’s leadership congress shortly after a scandal over a purported account of a decade-long affair.

Responding to reports that Qin was caught having an affair with a Chinese reporter, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on July 17, “I have no information to offer.”


One of the prominent faces of the Chinese government, Qin Gang’s prolonged absence has not only been scrutinised by diplomats and China watchers, but also by ordinary Chinese people.

“Qin Gang is missing. Not only is he missing from the news cycle in China, but he’s missing from my article! As run by the SCMP (South China Morning Post) on July 15, five sentences about Qin were removed (without notice) from the article after it was accepted for publication.”

Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of the Global Times, also took to Weibo to address the rumours. “There’s something everyone is talking about but can’t be talked about publicly,” Hu Xijin said without referencing Qin.

“People are interested in the story because they are curious about any secrets in the black box,” says Wu Qiang, a Beijing-based China politics commentator told the BBC.

“His disappearance has highlighted the fragility of China’s diplomacy system and high-level decision-making system.”

Qin has been considered a rising star in China’s political firmament. The former aide to President Xi Jinping was appointed foreign minister in December after serving less than two years as ambassador to the United States.

Since taking up the foreign minister post, he has played a prominent role in steering rocky U.S.-China ties, meeting Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing in June on the first visit to China by the top US diplomat in five years.

China has a long history of sudden and often unexplained official absences, particularly seen during the most intense period of Beijing’s anti-corruption campaign.

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