China has appointed its envoy to the US Qin Gang as the new foreign minister to succeed incumbent Wang Yi, who has been elevated to the Political Bureau -- the ruling Communist Party's top policy body.
It is, however, not clear whether Qin, 56, will take over the post immediately.
Wang, 69, has been elevated to the high-power Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
"Congratulations to H.E. Qin Gang @AmbQinGang for his appointment as China's new Foreign Minister! Looking forward to a splendid new chapter in China's diplomacy," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson and Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying tweeted.
The announcement was a surprise as the new administration to be headed by the new Premier is scheduled to take over during the annual Parliament session slated to be held from March 5 next year.
A new central cabinet called the State Council, replacing the present one headed by Premier Li Keqiang, will take charge during the annual session of the country's parliament -- the National People's Congress (NPC) -- scheduled to be held from March 5.
Except President Xi Jinping, all top officials and ministers will be replaced during the Parliament session.
Li, 67, will formally retire after completing his 10-year stint.
Li Keqiang is widely expected to be replaced by Li Qiang, 63, a close associate of President Xi who has been elected for an unprecedented third five-year term in the once-in-a-five-year CPC congress held in October.
Xi is the only leader after Mao to continue in power after a 10-year tenure as all his predecessors retired to promote new leadership in the party.
Li Qiang is ranked second after Xi in the all-powerful new seven-member Standing Committee.
Qin who was previously the spokesperson of the foreign ministry and later rose to the rank of Vice Minister is closely associated with Xi in the last 10 years, accompanying him on all his foreign tours.
He has already been inducted into the influential Central Committee of the CPC and together with Wang. Qin is expected to play a major role in shaping China's diplomacy in the coming five years.
Qin could also succeed Wang as Special Representative for the India-China Border mechanism. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is currently the Special Representative of India.
Known for his aggressive style in articulating China's foreign policy goals, Qin is fluent in English and features regularly on US television networks on China-related issues.
Meanwhile, an official announcement here on Friday said while the NPC will begin its annual session on March 5, its advisory body China People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will begin on March 4.
The suggested agenda of the annual session includes reviewing the government work report and examining the report on the implementation of the annual plan on national economic and social development for 2022 and the draft plan on national economic and social development for 2023.
The session is expected to examine the report on the implementation of the central and local budgets for 2022 and the draft central and local budgets for 2023, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Lawmakers are expected to deliberate a draft amendment to the Legislation Law and review the work reports of the NPC Standing Committee, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate.
The annual session will also elect and make decisions to appoint members of state organs, the report said.