Mixed reactions in Shanghai as Wang Yi returns as China’s foreign minister

Shanghai residents expressed mixed reactions on Wednesday to veteran diplomat Wang Yi’s return as China’s new foreign minister, replacing Qin Gang, who has not been seen in public since June 25.

Wang Yi is not new to the role, having previously served as China’s foreign minister from 2013 to 2022 when U.S.-China ties fell to an all-time low. Days before the recent shake-up, Wang was seen attending an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit on behalf of Qin, who Chinese authorities stated would not be present due to health concerns.

Xu Bohan, a student, found the news surprising and remarked, “Normally, you wouldn’t change foreign ministers that quickly. I’m really surprised. But I think it might be some sort of internal issue. Maybe I will find out by watching the news. In any case, I’ll find out later.”

Samuel Shi, an industry worker, emphasized that it is too early to judge Wang Yi’s performance and stated, “No matter who takes office, whether someone does a good job or not, it is not for our generation or the people of today to decide. History is always looking back to see whether someone did well or not. Whether someone was in politics previously, or if they know a little about it, nothing can represent their contribution to China’s diplomacy until after they’ve taken up the position.”

Qin had a high-profile meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June and held talks with visiting diplomats on June 25 before disappearing from the public eye. The reasons behind the change in foreign ministers have not been publicly disclosed.