On 29 May 2019, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou, who covered the portfolio of Asian affairs and served as China’s Special Representative on Korean Peninsula Affairs, was appointed Chinese Ambassador to Japan. His vice minister position is being taken by former Chinese Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui. Notably, Luo was Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)’s Department of Asian Affairs Director from 2011 to 2014, and was succeeded by Kong who then served in the same position from 2014 to 2015. In other words, Luo had a head-start in his career, but was later surpassed by Kong, who was promoted to assistant to minister position in 2015 and then vice minister position in 2017.
The reason is simple—Kong is a protégé of former State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇)—Tang has been the single most influential voice on any appointment related to China-Japan relationship—it was under his direct advice that current Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) was appointed Chinese Ambassador to Japan in 2004, and it was also under his direct recommendation that Wang Yi outcompeted Zhang Zhijun (张志军) to become Foreign Minister in 2013. Tang was a Minister to Japan from 1988 to 1991, and was in charge of Japan affairs in MFA for most part of 1990s.