(Bloomberg) -- China removed Qin Gang from his job as foreign minister after an investigation concluded he had an affair and fathered a child while serving as ambassador to the US, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Top officials in China were told in August that a Communist Party inquiry into Qin uncovered “lifestyle issues,” the newspaper reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the situation whom it didn’t describe. That phrase usually means sexual misbehavior of some type in the parlance of Chinese officialdom.
Two of the people said the affair led to the birth of a child in the US. The WSJ added that Qin is assisting a probe into whether the affair compromised national security. China is locked in an ideological battle with the US, its chief economic and geopolitical rival, which has seen Beijing intensify a national security drive.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday that she didn’t have any new information to offer about Qin.
China stripped Qin of his post in July, just seven months after he started the job — the shortest stint in the role in the nation’s history. No explanation was given, and his predecessor, Wang Yi, returned as foreign minister.
The episode raised questions over President Xi Jinping’s decision-making and the stability of the government running the world’s No. 2 economy. Those concerns are being rekindled by the current unexplained absence of Defense Minister Li Shangfu amid media reports he’s being probed for corruption.
The ruling Communist Party’s senior ranks are now being scrutinized for their dealings with foreigners, the insiders told the WSJ, adding that the top brass in China’s military were also in the spotlight.
See: China Defense Chief Mystery Adds to Leadership Turbulence
Few Chinese officials have risen as swiftly through the diplomatic ranks as Qin. His big break came in 2015 when he was given oversight of protocol at the foreign ministry. The next six years saw him organize state visits of top leaders to China.
It was likely in that job that Qin gained access to Xi. He was pictured beside the Chinese leader during a meeting with then President Donald Trump in Beijing in 2017.
Also: Ouster of Xi’s Handpicked Foreign Minister Halts Rising Career
In 2021, Qin was sent to Washington while he was still relatively unknown outside diplomatic circles. He showed a flair for public relations, 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 topics, arguing Beijing would’ve tried to stop Russia from invading Ukraine if it had known its plans and playing down the risk of a war with Taiwan.
--With assistance from Colum Murphy.
(Updates with comments from the Foreign Ministry in Beijing.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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