World

China’s Foreign Minister Is Removed After a Month of Silence

American officials who were present during Mr. Qin’s seven hours of meetings and dinner with Mr. Blinken at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on June 18 did not notice anything amiss at the time. U.S. officials say it would have been strange for Mr. Xi to have Mr. Qin meet with Mr. Blinken if senior Chinese officials already had a notion at the time of brewing troubles, so the immediate precipitating events of Mr. Qin’s downfall might have begun sometime later in June.

Publicly, Mr. Qin appeared to be unrelentingly loyal to Mr. Xi. Earlier, Mr. Qin served as a foreign ministry spokesman, a diplomat in London and as a protocol officer, a job that brought him close to Mr. Xi on foreign trips. Mr. Qin graduated from the University of International Relations, a school in Beijing linked to China’s security service, and worked as an assistant in the Beijing bureau of United Press International before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1992.

As foreign minister since late 2022, Mr. Qin was at the forefront of efforts to pull China out of Covid-era diplomatic isolation, and to try to ease tensions with the United States and other Western countries. But he was also a combative exponent of Mr. Xi’s vision of China as a confident world power, impatient with criticism from other governments, and rarely missed an opportunity to exalt Mr. Xi.

“The human race once again stands at the crossroads of history,” Mr. Qin told a news conference in Beijing in March. “President Xi Jinping has pointed out the right path for global governance from the high ground of the world, history and humankind.”

As a protocol officer for Mr. Xi, Mr. Qin was exhaustively punctilious, said Pavel Slunkin, who was a Belarusian diplomat involved in arranging a visit by Mr. Xi to Belarus in 2015. During the visit, Mr. Slunkin said, Mr. Qin called at around 2 a.m. and asked to immediately go to a museum that Mr. Xi was scheduled to visit, so Mr. Qin could recheck every detail of the plans, including exactly when the music would strike up as Mr. Xi walked up some stairs.

“His subordinates and the embassy’s staff were afraid to approach him. So the communication with him was strictly hierarchical,” Mr. Slunkin, now a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said of Mr. Qin in emailed answers to questions. Mr. Qin, he said, “obviously enjoyed his special position being close to the body — to Xi.”

Keith Bradsher and Edward Wong contributed reporting.



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