China Promotes U.S. Ambassador to Foreign Minister

HONG KONG—China has appointed its ambassador to the U.S. as its new foreign minister, a promotion that bucks precedent and signals a continuation of the aggressive “Wolf Warrior” style of diplomacy that has rankled many Western countries. 

Chinese leader

Xi Jinping

on Friday signed a presidential order approving the appointment of Qin Gang as head of China’s Foreign Ministry, according to a notice issued by the country’s national legislature.

The promotion caps a rapid ascent for the 56-year-old Mr. Qin, a career diplomat who was handpicked by Mr. Xi as Beijing’s envoy to Washington less than two years ago. Mr. Qin later became the first serving ambassador to be directly elevated to full membership of the Communist Party’s Central Committee since the Mao era.

The Wall Street Journal reported in October that Mr. Qin was the leading contender to be named China’s next foreign minister, with the then-incumbent Wang Yi stepping up as the party’s top foreign-affairs official and leading point of contact with Washington. 

Mr. Qin is seen as a trusted subordinate of Mr. Xi, having accompanied the Chinese leader on major diplomatic engagements while working as the foreign ministry’s protocol chief from 2014 to 2018. Mr. Qin then became vice foreign minister with responsibilities over Latin American affairs and then Europe, among other duties.

Mr. Xi picked Mr. Qin as his envoy to Washington in 2021, even though Mr. Qin hadn’t previously served as an ambassador nor had he handled any portfolios directly related to China-U.S. affairs, the Journal previously reported. The Chinese leader felt the Foreign Ministry’s preferred candidate, a career diplomat with extensive knowledge of the U.S., was too meek to deal with the Americans, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

Mr. Qin is a leading proponent of a combative approach to foreign policy that Mr. Xi favors. Observers have labeled it “Wolf Warrior diplomacy,” after a Chinese film franchise centered around a soldier-turned-security contractor who battles American-led mercenaries. People who have dealt with Mr. Qin describe him as more polished and nuanced in how he applies aggression, compared with other diplomats who share that ethos. 

A former Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mr. Qin speaks fluent English and has appeared regularly on U.S. television and at public events since arriving in Washington last year. He also maintains a robust presence on Twitter, which is blocked in China, with more than a quarter-million followers. 

Mr. Qin posted this week video footage on Twitter of himself making two baskets at Washington’s Capital One Arena ahead of an NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers. 

“Tried my first throw at an NBA game,” he wrote. 

Still, Mr. Qin can be forceful in advancing Beijing’s positions, according to people who have met with him, including Mr. Xi’s view that the U.S. is declining while China’s global power is on the rise.

Write to Chun Han Wong at

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Appeared in the December 31, 2022, print edition as ‘China Promotes U.S. Envoy To Foreign Minister.’

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