Where is China’s foreign minister?

China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, hasn’t been seen in public in more than three weeks. His longest previous absence lasted just eight days (over the Lunar New Year).

Qin, who’s enjoyed a rapid rise through China’s system, has now missed key diplomatic engagements. And Beijing is scrubbing any speculation online, while offering only vague ‘health’-related answers when pressed.

So two main theories are filling the void:

  • 🤒 A Hong Kong newspaper suggests he’s contracted Covid, and
  • 🤫 There are rumours Qin was having an affair with a TV presenter (affairs are banned within China’s ruling Communist Party).

Intrigue’s take: Both of these theories are credible: China closely guards the health status of its top officials, and often cites extramarital affairs when charging cadres with corruption.

But ultimately, only Beijing can put these rumours to rest. And the longer it waits, the more likely Qin’s absence is about something beyond his health.

Also worth noting:

  • Both US Secretary of State Blinken and US Treasury Secretary Yellen recently visited China (Qin was absent for both visits).
  • A former state media chief in China has implicitly criticised Beijing’s silence on Qin (in Mandarin, but most web browsers can translate it).
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