Lu Kang, former foreign ministry spokesperson who was also director-general of the ministry’s information department, is slated to become the next Chinese ambassador to Indonesia. People in the know in Beijing analysed that Lu could still see a rise in his political career.
According to a notice on the Chinese foreign ministry’s website on 13 December, Yang Tao, director-general of the foreign ministry’s international organisations and conferences department, has taken over Lu as director-general of the foreign ministry’s North American and Oceanian affairs department. Hong Kong media Sing Tao Daily reported on 14 December that Lu will be taking over Xiao Qian as Chinese ambassador to Indonesia, while Xiao will be appointed China’s ambassador to Australia.
Chinese ambassador to Indonesia post a stepping stone
Analysts pointed out that China attaches great importance to China-Indonesia relations because Indonesia is often regarded as the “natural leader” of ASEAN. Liu Jianchao, Lu’s predecessor in the information department, was directly promoted to assistant foreign minister after completing his tour as Chinese ambassador to Indonesia. Vice-Foreign Minister Xie Feng was also once Chinese ambassador to Indonesia.
Fifty-three-year-old Lu has held two relatively important director-general positions in the foreign ministry and has the advantage of age. After adding the position of ambassador to an important country in his resume, he is expected to follow in the footsteps of Liu and Xie to become a senior official at the deputy minister level.
At the same time, in the context of tense relations between China and the West, it has become even more important for China to maintain good relations with ASEAN countries.
In October, Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye left his post. A month later, Chinese ambassador to Indonesia Xiao Qian did so too, leaving two important ambassador positions vacant. Over the past two years, China-Australia relations have taken a nosedive with no sign of normalisation anytime soon. Cheng bade farewell to contacts from all sectors of society in Australia before leaving office, but the Australian foreign minister himself gave him the cold shoulder. Such behaviour was condemned by Chinese public opinion as “impolite”. China’s new ambassador to Australia is expected to face greater challenges, and it will be difficult to have an outstanding report card during his tenure.
Compared with China-Australia relations, China-Indonesia relations are on a much better footing. At the same time, in the context of tense relations between China and the West, it has become even more important for China to maintain good relations with ASEAN countries. Lu shoulders a heavy responsibility with his appointment as Chinese ambassador to Indonesia at this time, which presents both challenges and opportunities.
Female Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying also going places
However, compared with his successor at the information department Hua Chunying, Lu is clearly lagging behind. This October, 51-year-old Hua was promoted to assistant foreign minister. Aside from being appointed director-general of the foreign ministry’s information department, she also became the head of department in charge of information, protocol, and translation work, and has a bright future ahead of her.
Sources say that Hua stands out because of her ability, but it also has to do with the fact that the foreign ministry does need a certain proportion of female cadres. Overall, Lu’s progress is not slow. Being ambassador to Indonesia shows that his career is still on the rise and he may follow the footsteps of Liu and Xie in getting promoted to being an official at the deputy minister level.
As a foreign ministry spokesperson, Lu gave the impression of being unhurried, steady, and at ease.
Lu Kang armed with experience
Lu’s diplomatic CV is quite comprehensive. He was previously one of the Chinese representatives to the United Nations, and had worked with the international division, department of arms control and disarmament, and the department of North American and Oceanian affairs of the foreign ministry. He had also been posted to the Chinese embassies in Ireland and the US. At the latter, he was an envoy and deputy head. In 2015, he was made director-general of the information department as well as the spokesperson of the foreign ministry.
As a foreign ministry spokesperson, Lu gave the impression of being unhurried, steady, and at ease. When he stepped down as foreign ministry spokesperson in July 2019, he was highly thought of in China. Beijing Daily reported that Lu was known for being firm and concise, often not saying one word more or less, and leaving a series of “quotable quotes”.
While Lu was director-general of the ministry’s information department, instead of only letting in foreign media and major state media, regular foreign ministry press conferences were opened up to local media such as Shenzhen Satellite TV, The Paper, and Hubei TV.
According to Zhi News under Shenzhen TV, in a private conversation with media, Lu proposed opening up to some local media, which prompted some initial concerns, but looking at the final feedback, the majority of views were positive, and this innovative effort was supported by the foreign ministry leadership.
In March 1983, Qi Huaiyuan appeared in Chinese media as the first official spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry. Over nearly 40 years, there have been over 30 spokespersons, including former Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, former and current Chinese ambassadors to the US Cui Tiankai and Qin Gang, current deputy director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee Liu Jianchao, as well as Deputy Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu.
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