Wang Yi replaces Qin Gang; Is Qin under investigation?; Korean War 70th anniversary; Xi'an protests
Summary of today’s top items:
1. Wang Yi replaces Qin Gang as Foreign Minister - The Standing Committee of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) has replaced Qin Gang with Wang Yi, his predecessor. The return of Politburo member Wang, who is also the most senior diplomat in his role as director of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Foreign Affairs Commission Office, is another sign that Qin’s disappearance will not have any impact on the direction of the PRC’s foreign policy, which of course is guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy.
The change is another reminder to be very wary of rumors. Wang Yi’s name was not among all the others floated as possible replacements for Qin, though in retrospect he looks like the best, most stable choice. Whether this is in fact effectively a placeholder appointment until a younger official gets the nod is unclear, but for now Wang Yi is the most dominant foreign affairs official in the PRC in a very long time.
The announcement of the change was very brief: “会议经表决，决定免去秦刚兼任的外交部部长职务，任命王毅为外交部部长 After voting, the meeting decided to remove Qin Gang from the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs he concurrently held and appointed Wang Yi as Minister of Foreign Affairs.” No reason for the change was given, and Qin Gang still remains a State Councilor, a post from which according to the Organic Law of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China the NPC Standing Committee could have also removed him. We have no idea why he kept the State Councilor title, but I have a guess.
From the wording in the readout Qin Gang was removed 免去 as foreign minister but not dismissed 撤销. The organic law of the NPC clearly differentiates the two words, and allows the NPC Standing to do both, so one question I have been trying to figure out is if dismissal usually comes when a CCDI disciplinary investigation is complete, while removal occurs when one is underway.
The removal of Qin may have happened faster than it would have for other officials who are under investigation because his unexplained absence was affecting diplomatic work and the PRC’s image. And perhaps there is less urgency to remove him as State Councilor because from an external perspective the title is not too meaningful?
One indicator that Qin has discipline rather than health issues is that all mentions of him are being scrubbed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, in what looks like a form of digital erasure. If he were a comrade in good standing who had fallen ill I am not sure that would be happening.
So from today’s readout I will guess, key word here being guess, that Qin is still alive, contrary to some of the rumors going around, his issues are related to political not physical health, and the next news we get about him will likely be that he is under investigation. An investigation into Qin would be quite politically sensitive, given Xi’s role in breaking protocol and promoting Qin ahead of others with more seniority and experience, but could also be useful to show that no one, even those perceived to have close ties to the chairman, are above Party discipline.
Now it has become a domestic issue, with no lingering impact to the PRC’s foreign policy, and I highly doubt any impact to Xi’s position. While Qin’s unexplained downfall looks bad if it is related to discipline issues, he is just a central committee member and Xi has taken down far more senior officials in the last decade.
2. Wang Yi in South Africa - Wang Yi is in South Africa for the the 13th Meeting of BRICS National Security Advisers and High Representatives on National Security in Johannesburg from July 24 to 25. The most interesting snippets from the official readouts so far are “Wang said the BRICS mechanism is the most important platform for representatives of emerging markets and major developing countries to strengthen dialogue and cooperation, as well as the most important channel for strategic communication in the Global South” and, in his meeting with the Russian representative, “"We should work together to oppose hegemonic and high-handed acts, enrich the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era, and inject new impetus into a multi-polar world and democratization of international relations". As I wrote above, full speed ahead under Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy.
3. PBoC Party Secretary Pan Gongsheng now also Governor - The same NPC Standing Committee Session that voted to replace Qin Gang with Wang Yi also replaced Yi Gang with Pan Gongsheng as the new governor of the central bank. Pan’s appointment was expected after he became PBoC Party Secretary on July 1.
5. Party in North Korea - Politburo member Li Hongzhong is leading a "Chinese Party and government delegation 中国党政代表团” to North Korea for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. Russia is sending a delegation led by Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.
6. Xi’an school admission protests - A good explainer of the recent protests in Xi’an over access to a limited number of high school spots, and a reminder of the inequities in education across the PRC and why hukou (household registration) liberalization is not necessarily welcomed by people who already have the privileges of hukou.
Thanks for reading.