China appointed its ambassador to the United States, Chen Gang, as foreign minister, on Friday, according to Chinese state television.
Chen, known for his criticism of the West, replaces Wang Yi, who has been the face of Chinese diplomacy since 2013.
The new minister, 56, has served as ambassador to Washington since 2021, and he aspires to put bilateral relations with the United States back “on the right track.”
But the official, who hails from Tianjin (in the north), has gained a reputation as a “fighting wolf”, a nickname given to Chinese diplomats who respond harshly to the activities of the West, which they consider hostile to Beijing.
Chen’s personality is similar to that of the Chinese ambassador to Paris, Lu Chai, whose numerous undiplomatic statements led to his summons to the French Foreign Ministry.
In 2020, Chen Gang considered that the deterioration of China’s image in recent years to an unprecedented level in the West is due to the fact that Europeans and Americans, especially their media, will never accept the Chinese political system nor the country’s economic growth.
The diplomat was for years a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. He also accompanied President Xi Jinping during his duties as protocol official before 2018.
Qin Gang also served as vice foreign minister between 2018 and 2021.
He was responsible for Europe at the State Department, and he defended his view that China did not need to take lessons from the West, noting repeatedly that it was his victim during the Opium Wars in the nineteenth century.
For his part, a spokesman for the US State Department said that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who plans to visit Beijing in early 2023 as tensions between the two countries ease, “expects a continuation of a fruitful working relationship with Foreign Minister Chen in his new position.”
“The United States will continue to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China,” he added.