Where is Qin Gang? The question is simply not going away in China. The sudden disappearance of the 57-year-old foreign minister and Mr Xi’s trusted aide is fuelling rumours in a nation where political disappearances are commonplace. Mr Qin has not been seen for more than three weeks now. This is too long to be unconcerned about. The career diplomat was last seen in public on June 25th, when he met with diplomats from Russia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam in Beijing.

More Loyal than the Master

The Chinese Communist Party’s trademark secrecy is legendary. Yet, the silence over Mr Qin’s prolonged absence is baffling. His meteoric political rise deepens the mystery further. Only in December, Mr Qin was upgraded to the foreign minister’s chair, after a brief stint as ambassador to the United States. As China’s foreign minister, Mr Qin was pivotal to Mr Xi’s unreined politics of autocracy at home and policy of territorial expansionism across the seas. https://poliphoon.com/an-autocrats-inexorable-march/

More loyal than his master, Mr Qin set for himself a scorching pace. Frantically, he went about engaging foreign officials to facilitate China’s expansionist agenda in a war-hit world that was polarising fast. Now, all of a sudden, Mr Qin has gone missing, soon after this career diplomat had held talks with a few foreign diplomats in late June. The case of Mr Qin, the missing foreign minister, is getting curiouser and curiouser. https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/china/china- missing-foreign-minister-qin-gang-b2377122.html

Video Courtesy: WION

Tongues are Wagging Globally

As he goes missing, Mr Qin could not make it to many powered meetings. He was scheduled to meet Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, on July 10th and 11th, in Beijing. The meet had to be cancelled and China gave no explanation for its action. Earlier, during the first week of July, Mr Qin missed the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, aka Asean, in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. Again, no reason was given. https://www.politico.eu/article/europe- china- wang-yi-josep-borrell-trade/

Being a strategically key minister in China, Mr Qin’s unexplained absence is making tongues wag globally. Rumours are swirling over the internet, throwing up weird theories in the process. Questions are being raised over his health and personal safety. All these are expected in Mr Xi’s China, where sudden unexplained disappearances of top officials are signs of serious trouble. This is why Mr Qin’s strange absence is causing global concern as well.

Cesspools of Embarrassment

More so because Mr Xi’s administrative apparatus refuses to give reasons for his abrupt absence. Even scribes, who routinely ask when Mr Qin would get back to work, are rebuffed. All queries on Mr Qin are rewarded with a standard ‘no-information’ response. This secrecy is only fuelling global rumours further and raising concerns over what possibly could have happened to Mr Qin. These unsavoury rumours are hobbling China’s diplomatic efforts to normalise its relations with the West.

Worse, the mystery over Mr Qin’s continuing absence is diluting Mr Xi’s focus on building bridges with Asian neighbours. In the bargain, China’s envoys and ambassadors in foreign lands find themselves mired in cesspools of embarrassment. They hate the miasma of speculation surrounding Mr Qin. Trying to explain that such secrecy is inherent to the Party, they even remind their listeners that Mr Xi disappeared similarly for two weeks in 2012. Meaning, there is nothing strange about Mr Qin’s sudden unexplained disappearance. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/mystery-of- xi-jinping-s-two-weeks-in-hiding-8277816.html

Insecure about Sharing Info

Is it possible that Mr Qin is very sick? If he is, what is stopping Mr Xi from placing the details in the public domain? Perhaps, Mr Xi is insecure about sharing information which he thinks would hamper his efforts to tighten his hold further over China. Sure, Mr Xi is a control freak and loves to regulate flows of information. He dreads honest news and his administrative machinery has instructions to share only info Mr Xi is comfortable with. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/oct/02/th ink-putin-is-a-global-threat-then-we-need-to-talk-about-xi- jinping

Recent incidents show Mr Xi and his party using secrecy as a proven style of operation. For possessed authoritarians like Mr Xi, and for a narcissistic formation like the Chinese Communist Party, controlled news and regulated information are time-tested weapons. Yet, the studied silence over the mysterious and long disappearance of Mr Qin is baffling as he was at the centre of Mr Xi’s unbridled authoritarianism and territorial expansionism. https://poliphoon.com/heading-for-an-inevitable-crash/

Handy Tool to Aid Expansionists

Those antithetical to Mr Xi’s style of working are rushing to conclude that Mr Qin has been silenced for ever. They argue that Mr Qin, who might have fallen out of favour with Mr Xi, has been removed from the scene. By not explaining the details of Mr Qin’s absence to his people, Mr Xi proves his determination to trample on the rights of his people, his hero-worshipping partymen included. The unexplained absence of Mr Qin buttresses willy-nilly the universal theory that Mr Xi is becoming a bigger authoritarian than ever before. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/28/briefing/xi-jinping- china-authoritarian.html

Another theory that is doing the rounds suggests Mr Qin has been killed as he had become a threat to Mr Xi. It is common knowledge that Mr Qin’s rise was meteoric. His rise was largely because Mr Xi found in a loyal Mr Qin a handy tool to aid his expansionist political policy. Possessed, Mr Qin chased Mr Xi’s dreams and the results are well documented. This was not the only positive aspect of Mr Qin’s personality. These qualities in him must have made Mr Xi insecure.

The Wolf Warrior Diplomat

As Mr Xi’s foreign minister, Mr Qin was known for his acerbic retorts aimed at the United States. His searing rejoinders hit a high after the Chinese spy balloon episode had plunged the Sino-American relations to a new nadir. In fact, so aggressive was Mr Qin that he went on to earn the epithet ‘The Wolf Warrior Diplomat.’ Perhaps, Mr Qin had become too much of a threat for Mr Xi’s continued survival at the top of the order. https://english.elpais.com/international/2023-03-10/qin-gang- the-wolf-warrior-of-chinese-diplomacy.html

The theory tries to prove thus Mr Qin had to be removed from the scene. How was it done is a different issue altogether. Mr Qin was appointed ambassador to the United States in July 2021 and within 17 months he rose to become Mr Xi’s foreign minister. Beyond doubt, Mr Qin was the first among Mr Xi’s trusted blue-eyed boys. Though he started as an ordinary spokesperson in the foreign ministry, he managed to earn Mr Xi’s trust to rise faster than others.

The Lovey-Dovey Interview and After

As a foreign minister, Mr Qin was given the responsibility of making Mr Xi’s vision of transforming China into a global superpower a reality. Mr Qin strived hard to please Mr Xi. Perhaps, he was successful in that to an extent. His hours of pow-wows with Antony Blinken, America’s secretary of state, when the latter visited China in June, reflects the confidence Mr Xi had in Mr Qin’s diplomatic skills.

Then it happened, all of a sudden. Mr Qin went missing after his diplomatic meetings on June 25th. As speculation intensifies, many other sleazy theories are beginning to float. One of them is about Mr Qin’s alleged affair with Fu Xiaotian, a 40-year-old television anchor. The romance is being touted as the cause behind Mr Qin’s sudden disappearance. What lends credence to this theory is the fact that the star anchor and her infant son too have vanished now, conspicuously after a sensational lovey-dovey interview involving Mr Qin and the anchor emerged in the public domain. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/qin-gang- whereabouts- 07172023163416.html

Missing For so Long is Odd

The alleged affair might have been used by Mr Xi as an excuse to eliminate Mr Qin, who had become a political threat to his authority. Despite the circulation of multiple theories, one fact remains. Mr Qin’s disappearance is putting butterflies of fear in the tummies of China’s foreign ministry officials. As Mr Xi’s regime tries hard to hide Mr Qin’s abrupt absence under an armchair, the mystery of the vanishing foreign minister proves there is danger lurking around for officials.

This danger stems from vesting all the powers in the hands of one man. Mr Xi might be the undisputed supreme authoritarian of communist China, but his foreign minister missing for so long is at odds with China’s global status. Yet, Mr Xi is undaunted, as China’s hectic parleys this month with the US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the American climate envoy John Kerry show. Mr Qin or no Qin, life goes on as usual in China. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/7/17/john-kerry- arrives- in-china-to-revive-climate-talks

In Conclusion

As Mr Qin is yet to be traced, the case of the missing Wolf Warrior is getting curiouser and curiouser. China has a long history of mysterious political disappearances. Remember Meng Hongwei, a former head of Interpol, vanished in 2018. Bao Fan, an investment banker, went missing in February this year. Peng Shuai, a tennis celebrity, disappeared in 2021. Now, Mr Qin has joined this deplorable list of the disappeared. Does anyone care when disappearances are de rigueur in Mr Xi’s despotic dispensation?