China’s brash ambassador to South Africa recalled or promoted?

Along with the Chinese government’s chief Twitter troll, Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚, Beijing’s ambassador to South Africa, Lín Sōngtiān 林松添, has been one of the loudest voices from the Foreign Ministry’s army of online spin doctors attacking the U.S., and spreading the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 did not originate in China.

South Africa’s Daily Maverick reports that he has been recalled to Beijing, and speculates, without much evidence, on the reason. The China-Africa Project has a more likely take (paywall):

Ambassador Lin has emerged as one of the most vocal, high-profile critics of the United States in the rapidly escalating duel between the two economic superpowers. Ambassador Lin is one of the few Chinese officials who is comfortable to spar with journalists on live television and fluent in how to use Twitter even though he’s only had an account for six months.

His reported departure from Pretoria comes just as the Ambassador had begun to gain real traction in the United States, particularly in conservative media outlets who have singled him out as being a key Chinese government spokesperson in the ongoing COVID-19 origin dispute.

It’s quite likely that with the COVID-19 crisis now intensifying and relations with the United States quickly eroding that the Chinese Foreign Ministry is changing up its roster and moving some of its people, like Ambassador Lin, to new positions.

—Jeremy Goldkorn