China is expected to announce a reshuffle of its top diplomats at an annual meeting of parliament in March, aiming to deal with US President Donald Trump's growing suspicion of Beijing, several sources familiar with the plan said.
The sources, including foreign diplomats, told Reuters that Wang Qishan, a close ally of President Xi Jinping, will likely become vice president with a portfolio specifically focused on handling ties with Washington. He would report directly to Xi.
Current Foreign Minister Wang Yi will probably become a state councillor, replacing current top diplomat and State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who has been promoted to the Communist Party's 25-member politburo, the sources said.
State councillors, who report to the Cabinet, are more senior than the ministers responsible for the same portfolio.
Wang Yi could also keep the foreign minister portfolio, the sources said.
Another possibility was that Song Tao, head of the Communist Party's international affairs department and close to Xi, could become foreign minister, the sources said. Song is a career diplomat who has worked in India and the Philippines and speaks good English, diplomats who have met him say.
Yang, who joined the politburo in October, could become a vice premier with responsibility for foreign affairs, or become a deputy head of China's parliament, which would mean he could deal directly with the US Congress, the sources said.
Effectively Wang Qishan will be China's senior-most diplomat, then Yang and then Wang Yi.
"There will be three top diplomats," one of the sources told Reuters, referring to the three officials. "The United States will be a focus."
The sources cautioned that last minute changes are still possible and the positions won't become finalised until parliament nears the end of its annual session around mid-March.
All the sources spoke on condition of anonymity, either because they were not authorised to speak to foreign reporters or because of the sensitivity of discussing personnel appointments, considered secret until they are announced.
Neither the Communist Party's Organisation Department, which oversees personnel decisions, nor the State Council Information Office, which doubles as the party spokesman's office, responded to questions about the new diplomatic appointments.