(CNN) – China’s Foreign Minister Chen Gang has not been seen in public for three weeks, an unusually long absence during a busy period of diplomatic activity in Beijing that has fueled intense speculation in a country known for its political opacity.
Chen, 57, a career diplomat and trusted aide to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, was promoted to foreign minister in December after a brief stint as US ambassador.
as foreign minister, Chen severely scolded Washington After relations drop to a new low after a suspected Chinese spy balloon is shot down over the United States.
He also played a key role in subsequent efforts by the two sides to stabilize difficult relations and restore contacts, including meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit to Beijing in mid-June.
In his last public appearance, Chen was seen smiling He walks next to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko, who has flown to Beijing to meet with Chinese officials after a brief mutiny by a group of Wagner mercenaries in Russia.
“Dado the estatus and the influence of China in the world, it is very real that it is a ministro of relict interiors without having a parecido en public durante more than 20 days”, Dijo Deng Yuwen, ex-editor of a periódico of the Partido Comunista that ahora lived in United State.
Asked about Chen’s prolonged absence at a press conference on Monday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said he “has no information to provide,” adding that China’s diplomatic activities are conducted as usual.
Chen’s absence has become more conspicuous by a flurry of diplomatic activity in the Chinese capital in recent weeks, including high-level visits by US officials Janet Yellen and John Kerry.
Chen was supposed to meet EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell earlier this month in Beijing, but the meeting was postponed after China told the EU that the appointments were “no longer valid”. Reuters reported , citing a European Union spokesman .
The European Union was informed of the delay just two days before Borrell’s scheduled arrival on July 5, according to Reuters.
Chen also failed to appear at the annual meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Indonesia last week. Instead, the chief Chinese diplomat, Wang Yi, attended the meeting in his place.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said at a regular press briefing on Tuesday that Chen could not attend the ASEAN meeting for “health reasons,” according to Reuters.
But this answer was missing from the official transcript of the briefing, which was later published on the ministry’s website. Content it deems classified is often omitted from the transcripts of its regular briefings by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
However, the brief health reason cited by the authorities failed to quell a wave of largely unsubstantiated speculation as to why Chen had not been seen.
Ding, the US-based analyst, said the rumors were driven by a lack of transparency in China’s political system, where information is closely guarded and major decisions are often made behind closed doors.
Under Xi, this political ambiguity only intensified as he suppressed dissent and concentrated his power in his own hands.
This is the problem of totalitarian regimes. Totalitarian regimes are inherently unstable because everything is decided solely by the Supreme Leader.
“If something unusual happens to a senior official, people will wonder if their relations with the supreme leader have soured or if it is a sign of political instability,” Ding said.
Senior Chinese officials have disappeared from view in the past, only to be revealed months later by the discipline watchdog of the ruling Communist Party that they were being held for investigation. These sudden disappearances have become a common feature of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.
Adding sensitivity to Chen’s absence is his perceived close ties to Xi, who secured a rule-breaking third term last fall with a new leadership team full of loyal allies, according to Ding.
Chen Gang rose through the ranks without any help from Shi. Any problems with him would reflect poorly on Shi as well, Ding said, meaning Shi did not choose the right person for the job.
— CNN’s Wayne Chang contributed to this report.
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