Beijing | China on Tuesday sacked Foreign Minister Qin Gang and reappointed top diplomat Wang Yi to the post, ending the rare embarrassing drama involving a close confidant of President Xi Jinping in the tightly-run Communist country.
The abrupt move, approved by the top decision-making body of China's rubber-stamp parliament, comes as speculation swirled around the fate of Qin, an outspoken diplomat, who has not been seen in public for a month.
Qin, 57, was made the foreign minister in December last year, superseding many seniors, earning the distinction of a rising star in the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). He was one of the youngest appointees to the post in China's history.
Before his elevation, Xi had sent Qin as China's Ambassador to the US to stabilise Beijing's stalled ties with Washington.
No reason has yet been given for Qin's abrupt departure. The high-profile diplomat has not been seen in public since June 25, after he met with officials from Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Russia here.
The Chinese Parliament reappointed Qin's predecessor, Wang, who has been elevated to the high post of Director of CPC's Foreign Affairs Commission in January.
China's top legislature voted to appoint Wang, 69, as Foreign Minister and removed Qin from the post, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
President Xi, also General Secretary of the CPC, signed a presidential order to effectuate the decision, it said.
Wang served as the foreign minister from 2013 to 2022. However, in the Chinese political hierarchy, the post of the foreign minister is well below that of the Director of the CPC's Foreign Affairs Commission. He was also elevated to the post of State Councillor, a high political rank of the CPC.
Ever since Qin went missing from the public and missing several diplomatic engagements in the recent weeks, rumours had surfaced that he was not well. Later rumours of his alleged affair with a Chinese journalist working at Phoenix TV of Hong Kong, besides involvement in corruption cases were also doing rounds.
For weeks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry parried persistent questions from journalists on Qin's absence and whereabouts.
Rumours gripped Beijing on Monday when it was announced that the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress -- China's Parliament --will hold an emergency session on Tuesday to appoint and remove an official.
Tuesday's announcement of the NPC session came after a high-level
meeting presided over by President Xi.
Qin's unprecedented removal was regarded as a major setback and embarrassment for Xi who has emerged as the most powerful leader after the CPC founder Mao Zedong.
After his election for an unprecedented third term last year, Xi, 70, is expected to remain in power for life.
During his brief tenure as foreign minister, Qin met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar twice to discuss restoration of bilateral ties frozen by the military stand-off in eastern Ladakh.
Interestingly, Wang met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on the sidelines of the BRICS NSAs' Meeting in Johannesburg on Monday.
During the meeting, Doval conveyed to Wang that the situation along the Line of Actual Control in the Western Sector of the India-China boundary since 2020 had eroded strategic trust and the public and political basis of the relationship.