Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption probe captured its latest “tiger” to ring in 2015. Senior Chinese diplomat Zhang Kunsheng has been sacked on suspicions of “violating discipline” — a common euphemism used by the Chinese Communist Party for corruption. Zhang, 56, is notably the first prominent member of China’s diplomatic corps in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be sacked. Details on the circumstances leading up to Zhang’s investigation are unknown as the Chinese government has been characteristically tight-lipped about the situation.
According to Chinese media reports, Zhang was the most senior of the four individuals holding the rank of assistant foreign minister within the Chinese foreign ministry. Zhang’s portfolio concerned the ministry’s protocol department which will now be taken over by the ministry’s chief spokesperson Qin Gang. According to the South China Morning Post, Liu Jianchao will take over from Qin as the ministry’s spokesperson. Zhang recently represented China at the ASEAN Regional Forum Seminar on Sea Lines of Communications Security. He has additionally previously served at the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C., and worked in the Ministry’s Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs.
Zhang’s investigation somewhat expands the scope of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption probe in practice. Where previously senior military leaders, politicians, and even Politburo members (Zhou Yongkang) have fallen to corruption investigation, Zhang is a top-level bureaucrat from the relatively clean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Though details concerning Zhang’s case are sparse, there is considerable speculation that the investigation surrounding Zhang could have been motivated by politics in Zhang’s native Shanxi province.
Zhang has yet to officially be charged with any crime. In previous cases concerning corruption investigations, the individual under question has usually been sacked and removed from their public role for a period of weeks or months before being formally charged with a crime.