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New Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang vows to prioritise US ties, tweets praise for Americans

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 03/01/2023 Laura Zhou
  • The outgoing ambassador to Washington says he is seeking a 'better China-US relationship'
  • His promotion is widely seen as an effort by Beijing to stabilise relations between the world powers

New Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said he was "deeply impressed" by the American people and pledged to continue to push forward the relationship between the two world powers in his new role.

Qin, who was promoted on Friday, has served as China's ambassador to the US for the past 17 months - a period he described as "a time of severe challenges for China-US relations".

"I want to pay sincere thanks to the people of the United States for the strong support and assistance given to me and the Chinese Embassy during this period," Qin tweeted on Monday evening Washington time.

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China names ambassador to US Qin Gang as new foreign minister

The outgoing ambassador said he had "made many friends across the US" during his tenure in Washington.

"I have been deeply impressed by so many hard-working, friendly and talented American people that I met," Qin added.

The 56-year-old career diplomat, who was previously foreign vice-minister and oversaw media relations and protocol for international visits, said US-China relations would be among his priorities as foreign minister.

"Going forward, I will continue to care about and support the growth of China-US relations, encourage dialogue, mutual understanding and affinity between the two peoples, work for mutual respect ... and make my due efforts for the well-being of the two peoples and for world peace, stability and development."

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Earlier on Monday, Qin had a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Qin later tweeted that he looked forward to "continuing close working relations" with his US counterpart "for a better China-US relationship".

Blinken confirmed last month that he planned to visit China in January or February as part of an agreement between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden at the G20 summit in November. If carried out, it would be his first visit to China since taking office two years ago.

Qin's appointment followed a major power shift in Beijing at the 20th party congress in October, when Xi secured an unprecedented third term as the Communist Party's general secretary and Qin, a trusted aide to Xi, was promoted to the party's powerful Central Committee.

Qin's promotion is widely seen as an effort by Beijing to stabilise relations with Washington, which have become openly hostile in recent years with clashes over a wide range of issues, from human rights and technology to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Ministerial appointments are typically announced in March when China's national legislature holds its annual sessions in Beijing.

Known as one of the toughest voices within the Chinese foreign ministry, Qin took a softer approach during his time in Washington.

A month after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post in which he said China would have tried its best to prevent the war if it had known about it, rejecting speculation that Beijing had prior knowledge of Russia's military plans.

Blinken discusses US-China ties with incoming Chinese FM Qin Gang

Like many Chinese diplomats, he has been active on Twitter, where he has conveyed Beijing's views to over 266,000 followers.

According to Chinese state media, Qin's predecessor, 69-year-old Wang Yi, has been promoted to director of the general office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, the Communist Party's foreign affairs body.

In an article published in the party's theoretical journal Qiushi on Sunday, Wang said Beijing would seek to "establish guiding principles of Sino-US relations and correct course" in its ties with Washington.

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