On 16 May 2019, former Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) vice-ministerial ranking official Xia Mingjiu (夏鸣九) was appointed Minister-Counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Japan. The news came into light at the beginning of June 2019.
Historically, State Council ministries have been tasked to appoint their officials to Chinese embassies across the world to assist the work of ambassadors on respective areas. For example, China’s counsels on trade and commerce are usually from MOFCOM while counsels on culture and tourism are usually from Ministry of Culture and Tourism, instead of being from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). These counsels are usually selected from (vice-) departmental ranking officials, primarily because the highest ranking an ambassador can have in China is vice-ministerial. Xia’s appointment to Chinese Embassy in Japan broke this tradition—Xia is effectively of the same ranking as Chinese Ambassador to Japan.
Xia will likely be tasked to facilitate technology cooperation between China and Japan, an initiative that is particularly important as China faces technology stalemate with the United States and may no longer be able to gain any technology know-how from the United States. Japan as a leader in technology sector becomes a natural choice for China to mingle with.