Media reports say China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang was dramatically ousted on July 25 after a prolonged absence from public view and replaced by his predecessor in a surprising and highly unusual shake-up of the country’s foreign policy leadership.

CNN says Qin, 57, a career diplomat and trusted aide of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, had only been appointed foreign minister in December after serving as China’s ambassador to Washington.

No reason has yet been given for Qin’s departure but his predecessor Wang Yi will now step back into the role, authorities confirmed.

Wang, who was foreign minister from 2013 to 2022, now serves as director of the foreign affairs arm of the ruling Communist Party, a position which makes him China’s top diplomat.

China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee reportedly made the new foreign minister appointment yesterday in a meeting that was abruptly announced the day before, in a deviation from typically choreographed procedure.

“China’s top legislature voted to appoint Wang Yi as foreign minister … as it convened a session on Tuesday,” China’s Xinhua news agency reported.  “Qin Gang was removed from the post of foreign minister.”

According to CNN, Qin had played a key role in efforts by the US and China to restore communication, including meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 18 during the American diplomat’s visit to Beijing.

In his last public appearance, a smiling Qin was reportedly seen walking side by side with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko, who flew to Beijing to meet with Chinese officials after a short-lived insurrection by the Wagner mercenary group in Russia.

Al Jazeera reports that China then cancelled talks between Qin and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on July 4 without explanation.

Qin’s disappearance from China’s foreign affairs schedule had not been fully explained by the ministry, sparking intense speculation in a country known for its political opaqueness.