(Bloomberg) — China removed Qin Gang as foreign minister after an investigation concluded he had an affair and fathered a child while serving as ambassador to the United States , reported the Wall Street Journal.
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Senior Chinese officials were informed in August that a Communist Party investigation into Qin had revealed “lifestyle problems,” the newspaper reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the situation that it did not describe . This expression generally means sexual misconduct in the language of Chinese authorities.
Two of those interviewed said the affair led to the birth of a child in the United States. The WSJ added that Qin was participating in an investigation into whether the case compromised national security. China is engaged in an ideological battle with the United States, its main economic and geopolitical rival, which has seen Beijing step up its national security efforts.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday that she had no new information to offer on Qin.
China removed Qin from his post in July, just seven months after he took office – the shortest term in the country’s history. No explanation was given and his predecessor, Wang Yi, returned to the post of foreign minister.
The episode raised questions about President Xi Jinping’s decision-making and the stability of the government that runs the world’s second-largest economy. These concerns are being renewed by the current unexplained absence of Defense Minister Li Shangfu, amid media reports that he is under investigation for corruption.
Top brass in the ruling Communist Party are now under scrutiny for their dealings with foreigners, sources close to the WSJ said, adding that top brass in the Chinese military are also under the spotlight.
See: Mystery of China’s defense chief adds to leadership turbulence
Few Chinese officials have risen through the diplomatic ranks as quickly as Qin. His big break came in 2015 when he was entrusted with overseeing protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The next six years saw him organize state visits by senior leaders to China.
It was probably through this work that Qin gained access to Xi. He was photographed alongside the Chinese leader during a meeting with then-President Donald Trump in Beijing in 2017.
Also read: Ousting of Xi’s hand-picked foreign minister ends his rising career
In 2021, Qin was sent to Washington while he was still relatively unknown outside diplomatic circles. He demonstrated public relations savvy, embracing American culture by attending a baseball game and riding in a Tesla Inc. car with Elon Musk.
He also made moderate remarks on hot-button issues, saying Beijing would have tried to stop Russia from invading Ukraine if it had known of its plans and downplayed the risk of war with Taiwan.
–With help from Colum Murphy.
(Updates with comments from the Foreign Ministry in Beijing.)
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