China’s former foreign minister Qin Gang was removed from his position in July after he reportedly fathered a child during an extramarital affair while ambassador to the US.
Senior Chinese officials were informed last month that Mr Qin was dismissed due to ‘lifestyle issues’, a euphemism for sexual misconduct, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The revelations follow an internal investigation by the Communist Party, sources told the newspaper.
Officials briefed were also told that Mr Qin’s affair had led to the birth of a child in the US, though neither the identities of the woman nor the child were disclosed.
Mr Qin is now reportedly cooperating with the investigation, which is focusing on whether his conduct compromised China’s national security.
The Journal also reported that the Party is more closely reviewing interactions and relationships between senior officials and foreigners amid growing tensions between Beijing and the West.
The Chinese government, however, has still not publicly explained why Mr Qin was removed from public view, and then later, also from his post, maintaining only that he was absent due to “health reasons”.
Mr Qin climbed the Party ranks quickly – first as a trusted, loyal aide to Chinese premier Xi Jinping, then tasked with important positions, including as China’s envoy to the US, and then as foreign minister, a post he held for just seven months.
His predecessor, Wang Yi, was re-installed as foreign minister in what appears to be a bewildering game of musical chairs among China’s political elite.
Under Mr Xi, the dealings of Chinese elite politics have become increasingly opaque.
China’s defence minister Li Shangfu has also been missing in recent weeks, and speculation has swirled over potential corruption charges linked to the procurement of military equipment.
Such personnel shake-ups in the Party’s top ranks don’t reflect well on Mr Xi, who is still in his first year of an unprecedented third term.
It also comes at a time when China, the world’s second-largest economy, is grappling with a significant economic slowdown.
But as Mr Xi has already spent a decade as China’s leader, knee-capping political opponents and consolidating his power, it remains unclear whether or not he will be weakened by the situation.