Minister Chen Gang, the “wolf” of Chinese diplomacy, has been absent for nearly a month

Chen Gang, L.; Appointed Chinese foreign minister in late December, He’s been away for about a month. The lack of clues about which face represents the Asian giant to the world, a trusted man to the president, Xi Jinping, contrasts with the diplomatic frenzy in Beijing. In recent weeks the capital of the People’s Republic He received important visits from senior US officials In an effort to stop the deterioration of relations between the two superpowers. After more than 15 days of silence, the Chinese government claimed “health reasons” to say that Chen Gang would not attend an international forum. There has been no news since then of the 57-year-old former ambassador to the United States, known for his sharp words and responses. Wolf warrioras China’s toughest diplomats are called.

He was last seen in the line of duty on June 25th. On that day, dressed in a formal suit, he met with the foreign ministers of Vietnam and Sri Lanka and the deputy foreign minister of Russia.

A week ago, on June 18, the Chinese Foreign Minister held The most anticipated interview of his tenure, Antony Blinken, The first US Secretary of State to travel to the country in five years. “The relationship between China and the United States is at its lowest point since its establishment,” Chen told his US counterpart. “This does not serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples and does not meet the common expectations of the international community,” he added.

another day, Blinken met Shi, face to face around a table where Chen was also sitting.. Those meetings left the sense that the ties in free fall between the first and second economic power on the planet had broken off. Although US President Joe Biden called his Chinese counterpart a “dictator” the next day, Beijing continued to host a number of prominent names in US politics: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen In early July to Special Envoy for ClimateJohn Kerry Y al Centennial Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger this week. Chen did not attend any of these visits.

The days of Chinese diplomacy have continued at a grueling pace since the end of strict anti-epidemic measures in December and reopening in early 2023. The country has eclipsed many leaders from half the world: from France’s Emmanuel Macron to Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, through Spain’s Pedro Sanchez. The British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, also planned to travel to Beijing, but according to Bloomberg, he has postponed the visit, mainly due to Chen’s absence.

he Head of diplomacy in the European Union Josep Borrell He was unable to travel to Beijing either. His first attempt, in April, was canceled when the European tested positive for Covid. The second, scheduled for the second week of July, has been put on hold by the Chinese authorities. “Unfortunately, our Chinese counterparts told us that appointments scheduled for next week are no longer possible, and alternatives must now be looked for,” EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Nabila Masrali told Reuters on July 4.

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At the time, the European diplomatic sources based in Beijing considered Chen’s absence an event that, although surprising, fell within the normalcy of Chinese politics. To give an example: shortly before he was appointed general secretary of the Communist Party in 2012, Xi Jinping disappeared for two weeks. “Maybe they were preparing something important,” these sources ventured.

On July 7, China’s Foreign Ministry was asked for the first time whether the cancellation of Borrell’s visit was related to Chen’s health, according to the Hong Kong Daily account. South China Morning Post. Spokesman Wang Wenbin responded that he had “never heard of it.” And only four days later he confirmed that for health reasons, Chen would not attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Jakarta (Indonesia). However, these references have been omitted from the official texts.

He was replaced by the veteran Wang Yi, who has held his position on various occasions since then. Wang has served as foreign minister for the past decade, and currently serves as director of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Communist Party Central Committee, a position hierarchically above Chen in the People’s Republic’s complex hierarchy of power.

In Chen’s absence, a major milestone in China’s international projection, the new Foreign Relations Law, was also approved. The rule, in effect since July 1, illustrates the centrality of the Communist Party in shaping international politics, and is designed to provide Beijing with mechanisms by which it can Defense against sanctions and other coercive measures from Washington. The presentation was made by Wang Yi, who talked about the need to have legal “tools” for foreign struggles“.

he Kasu Chen It did not receive any attention in the state media. Meanwhile, speculations took off on social networks. Searches for “chengang” have multiplied by 28 in the search engine Baidu (China’s Google) in the past week to 380,000 per day, according to platform data reproduced by Reuters. Hu Xijin, former director of the official newspaper Global Times One of China’s most influential opinion-makers posted a comment on Weibo (Chinese Twitter) last week, in which he called, without mentioning the minister, for information transparency to improve official credibility and convey confidence to the people.

With more than three decades serving China’s foreign ministry, Chen took office in December, at a time of global fires, against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and raw conflict with the United States. When he had been in office for just over a month, the alleged spy balloon crisis brought down by the United States broke out, dragging relations with Washington into a downward spiral. He had just come from the capital of North America, where he had served as ambassador for a while.

Chen became a familiar face years ago Oftentimes his response is blunt as a foreign affairs spokesperson. He strengthened relations with President Xi Jinping, accompanying him through the capitals of the world after his appointment as Director General of the Protocol. A senior member of a European government he met describes him as “tough and direct”. In his first appearance before the press after his appointment as minister, he warned the United States that if it did not put on the brakes, “there will certainly be conflict and confrontation.”

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