Wang Yi, back as China’s Foreign Minister, pledges to ‘defend sovereignty’

Mystery deepens over Qin Gang’s removal as Foreign Ministry on July 28 restores erased statements

Updated - July 28, 2023 09:04 pm IST

Published - July 28, 2023 08:15 pm IST

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged to “firmly defend” China’s sovereignty and security, in his first message after once again assuming charge as Foreign Minister. File

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged to “firmly defend” China’s sovereignty and security, in his first message after once again assuming charge as Foreign Minister. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on July 28 pledged to “firmly defend” China’s sovereignty and security, in his first message after once again assuming charge as Foreign Minister in the wake of the shock removal of his predecessor.

The mystery over the removal of Qin Gang, only seven months into his term, deepened on July 28, when the Foreign Ministry, without explanation, restored Mr. Qin’s past speeches and statements that had been scrubbed from the website earlier this week.

Asked about the erasure and restoration, ministry spokesperson Mao Ning asked the media to not “over interpret” the changes on the website that was being “updated”. On July 28, the website showed Mr. Wang as the new minister along with a message from the veteran diplomat, who is returning to a position he held until last year, when he was promoted to the Politburo and to the party’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission office, which he will continue to head.  

For a second day, questions about Mr. Qin raised at the ministry’s daily press briefing were not included in the official transcript released later in the day. China’s government is yet to give any explanation for the reasons behind the removal, with the silence continuing to fuel speculation.

The Foreign Ministry said last month Mr. Qin missed meetings in Jakarta because of health reasons, but it has subsequently not referred to his health, leading many observers to conclude Mr. Qin was in political trouble.

At the same time, Mr. Qin (57) also appears to have, for now, retained his positions as a State Councillor in the Cabinet and as a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, leading some observers to suggest the former Minister may currently be on the radar of party investigators but without a final decision yet made on his future.

Mr. Wang (69), in a message on Friday after taking charge, said the ministry “will unite more closely around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core” and also “firmly defend national sovereignty, security and development interests”.

Even as the Qin Gang case unfolds, Beijing has also launched a high-level corruption investigation in the military’s Rocket Force, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Friday.

The current drive had reportedly “led to the downfall of several past and present senior commanders in the People’s Liberation Army’s Rocket Force, a key element of the country’s nuclear arsenal,” two sources told the paper, adding that current commander Li Yuchao was among those under investigation.

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