Chinese Vice-President Han Zheng
will attend the United Nations
General Assembly in New York, an event that was expected to be attended by top diplomat Wang Yi.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning confirmed on Friday that Han will represent China at the intergovernmental body’s annual policymaking sessions, which starts on September 19.
Mao said Han would attend the assembly’s general debate and hold talks with the UN secretary general, the assembly’s president and leaders of “relevant countries”.
Russia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Wang would visit Moscow on Monday for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
Formerly China’s top-ranked vice-premier, Han was appointed vice-president in March, months after leaving the ruling Communist Party’s top decision-making body, the Politburo
, in a power reshuffle last October.
Washington previously invited Wang Yi
, director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission and foreign minister, to visit the United States, raising assumptions that he would also attend the UN meeting.
While Wang might still make a separate trip, the decision to dispatch Han to the UN meeting rather than the top diplomat has sparked some questions.
A largely symbolic and nominal role, Han’s duties include representing the country at ceremonies and events overseas and receiving foreign guests in China.
In May, Han attended King Charles’ coronation
in London, during which he also met British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who said the two sides discussed climate change, economic ties and people-to-people links.
Soon after, Han spent three days in the Netherlands
, meeting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and reaffirming China’s willingness to “promote the better development of China-Europe relations through pragmatic cooperation”.
According to China’s constitution, the vice-president is supposed to “assist the president in his work” and “exercise such functions and powers of the president as the president may entrust to him”.
Han’s visit is seen as part of mutual efforts to prepare for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s possible attendance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in San Francisco in November, as well as a potential meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the summit to stabilise ties.
Since Commerce Minister Wang Wentao
’s stopover in Washington in late May, a series of top US officials have made trips to Beijing. They include Secretary of State Antony Blinken
, whose original plans to visit in February were put off after the Chinese balloon
controversy, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, climate envoy John Kerry and, most recently, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo
Raimondo described her visit as a “big step forward” for fraught bilateral relations, with new communication mechanisms set up for Chinese and US officials and business representatives to meet twice a year.
Britain’s Cleverly visited
Beijing in August, where he again met Han as well as Wang. During that trip, Han told Cleverly that the two countries needed to “maintain communication in international and regional affairs to jointly promote development of global peace”.
Han also welcomed London mayor Nicholas Lyons
in Beijing in May, saying China was “ready to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with the British financial communities”.
As the former chair of the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, Han handled Hong Kong’s social unrest in 2019 by implementing the national security law and the “patriots administering Hong Kong”
principle, as well as reforming the city’s electoral system.