ESSAY: IS A FOREIGN POLICY PURGE UNDERWAY?
Diplomatic star Qin Gang disappeared in June and was dismissed in July. To date no official explanation has been offered as to his whereabouts, his alleged misdemeanors or the condition under which he currently finds himself. A total news vacuum.
The man Qin replaced as foreign minister has replaced him in turn, taking a second go as foreign minister, and now that man, veteran diplomat Wang Yi, is said to have gotten a good knuckle wrap for not doing his job well enough.
Meanwhile, generals in the rocket force have been investigated and made to disappear without explanation, only to be replaced by less competent peers known for their loyalty to Xi. The latest bureaucratic unrest, confirmed by US government sources, suggests that China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu, has just been taken out of circulation, too.
Whither China’s foreign policy under Xi? Is a purge underway? Is China opening up or closing down?
American China-watchers are scratching their heads wondering with good reason.
As US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emmanuel memorably put it, the serial elimination of personnel in the top echelons of Chinese officialdom increasingly brings to mind the Agatha Christie novel, “And Then There Were None.”
TV footage on Qin Gang’s last major interview, which was also the last major interview for the person who interviewed him, suggests that he may have been smitten by the unusually vivacious broadcaster from Phoenix TV, but he was a hard worker and is a hard man to replace. Qin, always quick with a smile, at least on camera, was a diligent student of protocol and did a good job of making sure everything went just right, down to micro-minute timing when diplomatic pageantry was called for. He was a first class diplomatic impresario.
As a top aide to Xi, later as ambassador to the US, and later still as foreign minister, Qin was skilled at arranging the complex machinations, ceremonial pomp and and iron-clad logistics of high-level meetings. His smiling presence and quiet competence was missed in South Africa where China put on a dour, clumsy diplomatic performance.
Is China’s foreign policy headed for a dead-end or off the cliff?