China has removed Qin Gang as foreign minister less than seven months after he was appointed to the post.
The role will be taken up by the Communist Party’s foreign affairs chief, Wang Yi, who was previously foreign minister.
The 57-year-old’s last known public engagements were on 25 June. No reason was given for his removal.
Appointed to his post last December, Mr Qin was seen as a trusted aide of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“China’s top legislature voted to appoint Wang Yi as foreign minister,” state news agency Xinhua said.
“Qin Gang was removed from the post of foreign minister.”
The report said President Xi had signed the decree authorising the move.
Under the Chinese Communist Party system, foreign policy is formulated by a high-level official, who then directs the foreign minister to implement it.
When Mr Qin disappeared from his normal duties a month ago, and then failed to attend a summit in Indonesia, the very brief official explanation given was unspecified health problems.
But the lack of any detail from his ministry fuelled rumours, leading to speculation that he was being punished for either political reasons or because of an extra-marital affair.
Mr Qin’s rise to the position of foreign minister was nothing short of meteoric. He is one of the youngest appointees to the post in China’s history.
After less than two years in the role of ambassador to the US, he was named foreign minister last December.
Before that he’d been a foreign ministry spokesman and had helped organise Mr Xi’s trips overseas – which gave him the opportunity to work closely with China’s leader.