Qin Gang – why is everyone talking about the former Chinese foreign minister?

Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin has now found himself at the center of a controversy.

Qin Gang – why is everyone talking about the former Chinese foreign minister?
China's former Foreign Minister Qin Gang attending a press conference when he was in office following talks with his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra in Beijing, China, May 23, 2023. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Pool/File Photo

The backstory: Qin Gang is a prominent Chinese diplomat who's had a pretty influential role in China's foreign affairs. In 2022, he became China's Foreign Minister, responsible for managing the country's international relations and engagements with other nations. Before this, he served as China's ambassador to the US. During his tenure as ambassador, he focused on enhancing communication and cooperation between the US and China.

More recently:  In June, Qin Gang made headlines when he met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during Blinken's visit to Beijing. Blinken was the first US cabinet official to visit China since 2018, and it was also his first trip to China under the Biden administration.

In July, the Chinese government appointed Wang Yi, an experienced diplomat, to replace Qin as the Foreign Minister. But Qin still holds a significant position as one of China's five State Councilors, meaning he still had a presence within China's top administrative echelons.

The development: Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin has now found himself at the center of a controversy. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, it was revealed that Qin was allegedly involved in an extramarital affair during his tenure as China's ambassador to the US. This report, based on insider information, says that he’s currently cooperating with an ongoing investigation into whether this situation had possible national security implications.

Sources suggest that senior Chinese officials were told about the Communist Party's probe into Qin's conduct last month. The official reason given for his dismissal was "lifestyle issues," which is often a reference to personal misconduct. Notably, the investigation found that Qin's alleged extramarital affair led to the birth of a child in the US. But, the identities of those involved are still under wraps.

When questioned about this matter during a regular press briefing, a spokesperson from the Foreign Ministry, Mao Ning, said she was unaware of the information published in the WSJ report.

Key comments:

"As for the appointment and removal of the Chinese Foreign Minister, the Chinese side has released information before," said spokesperson Mao Ning on Tuesday, in a reference to the July announcement of his replacement.

"With a series of major international meetings coming up, Xi defaulted to someone who has relationships with many of his foreign counterparts. In times of uncertainty, China wants continuity and predictability in this position," said Rorry Daniels, a senior fellow at the Center for China Analysis, referring to Wang Yi’s replacement as the Foreign Minister.

"We will continue to engage with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other Chinese officials and we continue to believe that keeping lines of communication (is) incredibly important," said US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel in July.