China plans to send Vice-President Han Zheng to represent country at UN General Assembly session

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Chinese Vice-President Han Zheng.  file

Chinese Vice-President Han Zheng. File | Photo Credit: AP

China is sending Vice-President Han Zheng to the UN General Assembly’s annual high-level debate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on September 15, suggesting that the country’s most senior diplomat Wang Yi will not attend.

This year’s gathering of world leaders at United Nations headquarters in New York starts on Monday with a sustainability summit. The weeklong general debate gets under way on Tuesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has not attended the UN session in person for several years. He participated via video-conference during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wang Yi attended last year and generally represented China at the UN Wang is the head of the foreign affairs committee of China’s Communist Party. He was not mentioned in the Ministry’s announcement.

Han is a past member of the Politburo Standing Committee, an elite group of leaders within the party. He retired from that position but assumed the position of Vice-President in March.

Han’s continued political career parallels the one of Wang Qishan, who played an influential role in the past several years in managing the tense US-China relationship. Wang led the Communist Party’s disciplinary body and was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee. He retired at the end of 2017 but was brought back to serve as Vice-President in 2018.

The absence of Beijing’s top leader at the General Assembly may not be as conspicuous as Xi not attending the Group of 20 summit that took place in India earlier this month.

The British government announced in August that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would not attend the upcoming UN session. French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin also do not plan to be there.

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