China’s government abruptly replaced its foreign minister today, appointing former ambassador to the United States Yang Jiechi to the post in an early reshuffling of senior positions ahead of key political meetings.
The resignation of Li Zhaoxing as foreign minister had been widely expected, but not until much later this year when the ruling Communist Party convenes a once-every-five-year congress to reapportion top jobs.
At 66, Li was already a year past the customary retirement age for Cabinet ministers.
Along with Li, the ministers of land resources and science and technology also stepped down today, and the executive committee of the national legislature announced their replacements, the government’s Xinhua News Agency reported.
The transition at the Foreign Ministry was unlikely to alter substantively China’s foreign policy. Major policy directions are set by the communist leadership, especially President Hu Jintao, who heads an interagency committee on foreign affairs.