Fu Xiaotian, a  Chinese state television presenter
Fu Xiaotian, known for hosting the programme ‘Talk with World Leaders’, is believed to have had a relationship with China’s former foreign minister Qin Gang © Imaginechina/Reuters

A high-profile Chinese television presenter who was in a relationship with the country’s ousted foreign minister had a child last year with the help of a surrogate mother in the US, people familiar with the matter have said.

Fu Xiaotian, 40, was in a relationship with Qin Gang, according to six people close to Fu and China’s foreign policy establishment. She told a close associate about the surrogate pregnancy last year, the person told the Financial Times. Two other people familiar with the matter also said she had a child via a surrogate. Surrogacy is illegal in China.

Chinese authorities are scrutinising the relationship between Qin and Fu, said two separate people familiar with the matter, although it remains unclear how central it was to his sudden disappearance in June and removal a month later as the country’s foreign minister.

China’s foreign ministry website describes Qin as “married with a son”. President Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasised that top officials’ family lives “are an important reflection of senior officials’ work performance”.

Beijing officials have declined to explain the dismissal of Qin, 57. Following a one-sentence notice of his replacement on July 25, the foreign ministry erased all mentions of Qin, his meetings and speeches from its website.

A few days later the postings were restored, deepening the mystery around the status of Qin, a one-time personal favourite of Xi who was promoted to state councillor, or cabinet member, in March. He remains a state councillor, which could potentially facilitate a return to the pinnacle of Chinese politics, political analysts said.

Qin Gang
Qin Gang, described by the foreign ministry as ‘married with a son’, was a one-time personal favourite of Chinese president Xi Jinping © Amr Nabil/AP

Fu stopped posting on social media in April and stopped responding to messages in June, around the time Qin made his last public appearances as China’s foreign minister, according to two people who had been in contact with her.

One person close to Fu, who until last year hosted a programme called Talk with World Leaders, said her telephone number had been disconnected and that she was unreachable through messaging apps. The person said their last contact with her was in June.

A person close to Fu said she met Qin in London around 2010, after she had left Cambridge university and started a job at Phoenix TV, a Chinese media group. Qin was posted to the UK as China’s chargé d’affaires. They began a closer relationship nearly a decade later in Beijing, several people close to Fu said.

Qin’s wife Lin Yan accompanied him to the US, where he was posted in 2021 as ambassador. He left the post this year after being appointed foreign minister.

Around the time of the appointment, he began to limit contact with Fu, two people familiar with the situation said. One person close to Fu said it prompted her to drop hints about their relationship on social media.

In March she told her followers on social media platform Weibo that the father of the baby was not American. When Qin was appointed state councillor, she posted a photo of the baby raising his hand, adding a caption: “A victorious conclusion.” A week later, around Qin’s birthday, she wished the unnamed father a happy birthday, saying that truly loving a person was not about “hoping for their promotion and riches”.

Fu posted her final public comments on social media on April 10 after she boarded a Gulfstream G650 private jet in Los Angeles bound for Beijing, according to her Weibo post and flight records.

When the plane refuelled in Anchorage, Alaska, she posted on Weibo in Chinese about her last trip on the same private jet, which had taken her to Washington for an interview with Qin. “That trip was for a work interview,” she wrote. “Little did I know it would also be my last physical appearance on Talk with World Leaders.

“After a year, I’m boarding the plane again, also departing from Los Angeles, but this time with my son Er-Kin. This time, the destination is ‘onwards’.”

An hour later Fu posted on her Twitter account for the first time since June 2022. She posted a similar message in English, this time including a photo of the Washington interview with Qin from the prior year. Flight records from RadarBox show that the jet landed in China’s capital the following afternoon.

Fu has long used social media to promote her work and other endeavours. In 2016 she pledged a six-figure sum to Cambridge’s Churchill College for the support of postgraduates and the creation of a quiet study space.

One person familiar with the matter said the amount was about £250,000. She asked that a garden built from part of the funds be named after her and that it be “included on the college’s website”, according to records obtained from the college by Sam Dunning of the UK-China Transparency charity. 

A Churchill College representative said: “We remain concerned for the wellbeing of our alumna, and hope that she and her child are safe and well.”

Fu widely reposted videos of a ceremony to open the garden, which was attended by Chinese dignitaries. Fu held a similar ceremony at Italy’s Beijing embassy in 2017 when she was awarded the Order of the Star of Italy. She held a birthday party in 2021 at the Qatari embassy in Beijing.

The source of Fu’s wealth is unknown. In a 2015 interview she said her grandparents were in the Red Army prior to settling in Chongqing, southwestern China. A person close to her said her father was an engineer and her mother a housewife.

China’s foreign ministry and Phoenix TV did not respond to requests for comment. Fu and Qin could not be reached.

Additional reporting by Chan Ho-him in Hong Kong and Yuan Yang in London

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