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'Silver Fox' Wang Yi Back As China's Foreign Minister: A Look At His Last India Visit

On Tuesday, China sacked Qin Gang as the Foreign Minister of the country and replaced him with veteran politician Wang Yi.

| Written By
Bhagyasree Sengupta
Wang Yi

External Affairs Minister Dr Jaishankar, Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Yi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval (Image: Republic)

On Tuesday, China sacked Qin Gang as the Foreign Minister of the country and replaced him with China’s veteran politician Wang Yi. The 69-year-old politician, who has been a close ally to Chinese President Xi Jinping, served as the country’s Foreign Minister in Xi’s first and second terms as the president. The change was announced at a session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. Qin, who was touted as a firebrand in his stature, has been out of the public eye for the past month. While the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not give any reasoning for his disappearance, speculations started floating about his affair with Hong Kong-based TV reporter. 

Meanwhile, Wang Yi was confirmed to take over the seat a day after he had a meeting with the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Friends of BRICS meeting held in South Africa on Monday. During the talks, Doval emphasised the need for continuing efforts to restore peace and tranquillity in the border areas to remove the "impediments" to normalcy in bilateral relations. The meeting came days after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met Wang in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the two leaders discussed outstanding issues relating to peace and tranquillity in border areas. 

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese diplomat Wang Yi, July 24, 2023, Image: Republic

India has been locked in a military standoff with China for more than three years, In the past, Jaishankar described it to be the most complex challenge in his long diplomatic career. During his last leg as China’s foreign minister, Wang visited India seeking better ties with New Delhi. Here’s a look back at his last diplomatic visit to India:

The 2022 trip: Why was it important? 

In March 2022, Wang visited New Delhi as part of his whistle-stop tour across South Asia. Wang’s trip was touted as essential since it was the first high-level bilateral visit between the two countries since December 2019. The visit took place in the midst of deteriorating relations with China after the two nations clashed along the Himalayan border in June 2020. The two nations were recovering from a deadly coronavirus pandemic which first emerged in China’s Wuhan, contributing to the already existing animosities between the two nations. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi poses for a photograph with EAM Jaishankar, March 25, 2022, Image: MFA China 

Key highlights of the visit

In his one-day visit, Wang met his Indian counterpart Dr S. Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. During his meeting with Jaishankar, the two leaders shared views on the steps needed for the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two leaders discussed the Russia-Ukraine war and agreed that multiculturalism should be promoted all around the world. “The two sides also exchanged views on the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and multilateral affairs, and agreed that multilateralism should be upheld, the UN Charter and international law should be abided by, and disputes should be settled peacefully via dialogue. The two sides also expressed grave concerns over the impact of unilateral sanctions on the global economy and supply chain security,” The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. 

Wang Yi even put forwarded a three-point approach: 

  • Both sides should view bilateral relations from a long-term perspective. 
  • China and India should view each other's development with a ‘win-win mentality’.
  • Both countries should participate in multilateral processes with a cooperative posture.

In the meeting, the two diplomats agreed that China and India should “walk steadily” on the respective path of development. But both nations should take the bilateral relations on the right course by ensuring peace and stability in the region and beyond. 

China's Wang Yi shakes hands with India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, March 25, 2022, Image: MFA China 

A visit marred with tensions

Wang’s 2022 visit came after he made a controversial comment about Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Wang’s arrival in New Delhi was kept private. According to South China Morning Post, there were no senior officials or fanfare to greet him at the airport while journalists struggle to track his arrival based on incoming flights to Delhi. 

Tensions simmered even after the bilateral talks. While speaking to the media after the meeting, Jaishankar stated that the ties between the two nations have been “disturbed as a result of Chinese actions,” making it clear that it will be hard to reconcile before the border issues are settled, as per the report by SCMP. The EAM eventually described the relations as “not normal”. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi poses for a photograph with EAM Jaishankar, March 25, 2022, Image: MFA China 

Is there still a hope? 

Meanwhile, Qin met Jaishankar on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Goa, in May this year. In this meeting, Jaishanker pushed for ensuring peace and tranquillity at the border. “India and China need to strengthen cooperation in many areas. India hopes to continue to work with China to maintain peace and stability in the border areas through consultation,” Jaishankar told Qin. In response to this, the Chinese foreign minister stated that both nations should draw from their historical experience. “The two countries should draw experience and lessons from history, steer bilateral relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, respect and learn from each other, contribute to each other's success, pursue a new path of living in harmony, peaceful development and common revitalization between neighbouring major countries, so as to boost their respective national rejuvenation and inject stability and positive energy into world peace and development,” Qin insisted. However, just a little over a month after the meeting Qin made his last public appearance and disappeared from the limelight. 

Ex-Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang holds talks with Jaishankar at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Goa, May 4, 2023, Image: MFA China

In the meeting on July 24th, both Doval and Wang emphasised the "importance of continuing efforts to fully resolve the situation and restore peace and tranquillity in the border areas, so as to remove impediments to normalcy in bilateral relations," the statement said. The two sides agreed that the India-China bilateral relationship is significant not only for the two countries but also for the region and world. With a tense history, it will be interesting to see which way the India-China relations will head under Wang Yi’s tenure. 

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