Talented speaker-turned-spokesperson for the foreign minister of China

Qin Gang seems to be everywhere these days. China’s foreign minister, who took office last December, was in Myanmar, India and Pakistan last week, meeting his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. He returned to Beijing on Monday, where he received the US ambassador to China. Immediately after that he traveled to Europe, visiting Germany, France and Norway this week.

As Speedy Gonzalez, Chen Gang races around the world to spread President Xi Jinping’s message: China is opening up to the world again after three years of a zero-virus policy, but on Chinese terms. For example, Beijing wants to strengthen relations with Europe and mediate in Ukraine, but it also wants to continue supporting Russia. The fact that Europe is considering imposing sanctions on eight Chinese companies for supplying technology to Russia prompted an angry response from Chen in Berlin.

It’s a tough message, full of contradictions, but Chen doesn’t shy away from it: The 57-year-old diplomat, and former ambassador to the United States, has had his tapes as State Department spokesperson for years. During countless press conferences, he has shown himself to be a gifted orator, who can dodge journalists’ critical questions with razor-sharp sharpness, but who can also cajole and charm them, depending on the prevailing political winds of the day.

This led to discussions in foreign media for years: Was Chen Gang the representative of Wolf Warrior diplomacy, resolute in the aggressive style among Chinese diplomats, named after a nationalist action movie? Or was it just a counterweight to all this roar, which led to worldwide disgust? Experts see him as a fox: an agile and cunning interpreter, faithful to Xi’s worldview, a friend of Russia and Ukraine at the same time. And from Europe as long as it comes from China.

See also  Brexit will cause a lot of trouble at the border, but the damage is not too bad

Smug talk style

Chen Gang was born in Tianjin in 1966 and studied at the Institute of International Relations in Beijing, a well-known breeding ground for Chinese diplomats. He got his first job in 1988, as a local assistant for the US news agency United Press International, a position that was held by the Chinese government. He learned how foreign media work, which will come in handy later on.

In 1992, Chen joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was sent to the UK three times, which he himself described as “winning the lottery”. But he made a name for himself during his two terms as speaker, between 2005 and 2014. That was the period when China began to show more confidence, especially after the global credit crisis. Chen Gang suited the increasingly nationalistic zeitgeist, with his direct and sometimes arrogant speaking style.

Chen became known for his shrewd wit and diatribe, often with references to Chinese classics. When asked about China’s increasing defense spending, he replied that the Chinese People’s Army was “not an expeditionary group”. When US President Barack Obama toured Asia but turned down an invitation from China, he shrugged, “I would say China is here and whether it comes or not, China is not going away.”

Chen’s style was well received by Zhongnanhai — the Chinese equivalent of the White House — and in 2014 he became head of the protocol department, which organized Xi Jinping’s trips abroad. This allowed him to spend a lot of time with Xi and earn his trust. At the prestigious G20 summit in Hangzhou, passers-by overheard Xi flirting with Chen. He is one of the latecomers to Xi’s small circle of trust, which was primarily formed in Fujian and Zhejiang at the beginning of Xi’s career.

convince Europe

Chen’s close relationship with Xi may explain why he was unexpectedly appointed China’s ambassador to the United States in 2021, despite his lack of relevant experience. As a diplomat, he specialized mainly in European affairs. Chen arrived in Washington in a tense atmosphere, with little access to US politicians, due in part to China’s treatment of the US ambassador in Beijing, who was almost unwelcome due to its no-virus policy.

Chen did his best to let out a conciliatory voice now and then. He allowed himself to be photographed driving an American tractor or throwing a ball at a baseball field. And he refrained from Twitter rants and conspiracy theories, unlike the real Wolf Warriors. But he could not prevent US-China relations from deviating further. In the end, he remained in Washington for only 17 months, which essentially proved to be a stepping stone to the ministry.

It is now up to Chen to convince Europe—which is economically dependent, but politically distant from China—of China’s goodwill toward Ukraine. Beijing says it wants to mediate without losing Russia. This is miles from seeing europe. At the press conference in Berlin, Chen preserved the kind words: “As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and as a responsible superpower, China will neither watch from the sidelines as it burns nor add fuel to the fire.”

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *