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China's Removal Of Missing Foreign Minister Qin Gang Is The Latest In A Long List Of "Disappeared"

A movie star, a tennis player, a tech billionaire — and now the Foreign Minister: the Chinese Party's parallel justice system does not discriminate when it comes to hushing down figures deemed "subversive."

Image of Qin Gang, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China

Qin Gang, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China

Pierre Haski

This article was updated on July 25, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.


In which countries can a foreign minister literally disappear without anyone asking any questions?

Blatantly dictatorial regimes may first come to mind — like the Kim dynasty in North Korea, or Syria with the Assad clan. But not necessarily the world's second most powerful economic and military power, holder of a veto at the UN, whose political and social model is seen by many as an alternative to a West deemed in decline.

I'm talking of course about Xi Jinping's China, where the "eclipsing" of the country's foreign minister brings back memories from another era, when leaders disappeared from photos with the Great Leader Mao Zedong — erased "by hand" in that pre-Photoshop age.

Health excuses, then rumors

No one has seen Qin Gang, the Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China, since June 25. [The Chinese government has now officially removed him as foreign minister, instead reappointing his predecessor Wang Yi, according to state media — although no reason was given for the shake-up to the country’s foreign policy leadership.]

For the first few days, when the brand-new head of diplomacy, only six months on the job, wasn't where he was supposed to be, spokesmen said he was unwell. Given the COVID situation, it was all believable.

No one is immune from "disappearing".

Then explanations and excuses gave way to silence — and rumors. The most persistent was that of an extramarital love affair with a star journalist from Hong Kong's Phoenix TV, with whom he was said to have had a child. The journalist, too, has disappeared. One of the last messages she posted on social media read like a riddle, consisting of three photos taken on board a private jet between Los Angeles and Beijing, with a baby in her arms, and a cryptic message. Other rumors added a spy-like dimension that spiced up the “love story”.

China's history of "disappeared" critics

The truth is, no one really knows. To ensure the continuity of Chinese diplomacy, former minister, Wang Yi was promoted to member of the State Council, and promptly resumed his travels to Central Asia and Africa to replace Qin Gang. No further explanation was given, and Wang Yi has now been fully reinstated as foreign minister.

The ups and downs at the head of the Party and State in Beijing would be of little importance if they did not reveal a flaw in the "Chinese model": the absence of the rule of law. Qin Gang may be a minister and former ambassador to Washington — one of the most difficult position in Chinese foreign policy — but that doesn't make him immune from "disappearing" without a trace, in the Party's parallel justice system. And he's not alone.

In recent years, Chinese film star Fan Bing Bing disappeared in the same way for several months, for hiding substantial income from the tax authorities; so did tennis player Peng Shuai after making #MeToo waves that were deemed too political.

It marks the return of a palpable sense of insecurity among China's middle class.

The same fate befell Jack Ma, the famous founder of online retail giant Alibaba and once Asia's richest man. His "disappearance" followed a speech in which he had the gall of criticizing China's financial sector — a bold move for the leading private entrepreneur, given that said sector is still controlled by the state.

For some time, Jack Ma relocated to Tokyo, before the Beijing government decided to cool things off with the private tech giant in an attempt to revive the country’s stalled economic sector.

Image of An activist group handing out T-shirts reading ''Where is Peng Shuai?'' before the women's Grand Slam final in Australia

An activist group hand out T-shirts reading ''Where is Peng Shuai?'' before the women's Grand Slam final in Australia

Frank Molter/ZUMA

The Achille's heel in an omnipotent regime

These cases show that you don't have to be a political dissident (like the jurist Xu Zhiyong, recently sentenced to 14 years in prison for "subversion") to incur the wrath of the party.

A minister, a movie star, a tennis player, a tech billionaire. No lawyer, no appeal procedure, no public hearings, no trial. This explains the return of a palpable sense of insecurity among China's middle class, who thought that the reign of dictatorship was fading with the passing of the Maoist era: On the contrary, Xi Jinping has but reinforced it, convinced as he is that the Party's power must remain total and uncontested.

Minister Qin Gang will reappear one day, as if nothing had happened. But the feeling of insecurity will remain, a glaring sign of the Achilles' heel of Xi Jinping's "Chinese dream".

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How Parenthood Reinvented My Sex Life — Confessions Of A Swinging Mom

Between breastfeeding, playdates, postpartum fatigue, birthday fatigues and the countless other aspects of mother- and fatherhood, a Cuban couple tries to find new ways to explore something that is often lost in the middle of the parenting storm: sex.

red tinted photo of feet on a bed

Parenting v. intimacy, a delicate balance

Silvana Heredia

HAVANA — It was Summer, 2015. Nine months later, our daughter would be born. It wasn't planned, but I was sure I wouldn't end my first pregnancy. I was 22 years old, had a degree, my dream job and my own house — something unthinkable at that age in Cuba — plus a three-year relationship, and the summer heat.

I remember those months as the most fun, crazy and experimental of my pre-motherhood life. It was the time of my first kiss with a girl, and our first threesome.

Every weekend, we went to the Cuban art factory and ended up at the CornerCafé until 7:00 a.m. That September morning, we were very drunk, and in that second-floor room of my house, it was unbearably hot. The sex was otherworldly. A few days later, the symptoms began.

She arrived when and how she wished. That's how rebellious she is.

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