Chinese 'wolf warrior' diplomat no longer ministry spokesman

Zhao Lijian, a brash and outspoken diplomat who exemplified Beijing's "wolf warrior" turn against the West, will no longer serve as a foreign ministry spokesman, a Chinese government website showed Monday.

Zhao took up the post of foreign ministry spokesperson in 2020, after making headlines with controversial tweets as an envoy to Pakistan.

He became notorious as part of an army of Chinese diplomats known as "wolf warriors", offering a more vociferous defence of the Communist-led country on social media platforms such as Twitter -- which is blocked in China.

Zhao promoted conspiracy theories, including that the US military might have brought Covid-19 to China.

He also sparked outrage in Canberra when he posted an illustration of an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife to a child's throat, prompting condemnation by Australia's prime minister.

Zhao will take up a position as a deputy director-general of Beijing's Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, which manages cases concerning China's borders, according to a government website.

His rise in influence came as Beijing spearheaded a more aggressive diplomatic turn under President Xi Jinping, China's most powerful ruler in decades.

That approach shows no sign of slowing with last month's appointment of US ambassador Qin Gang -- a top diplomat known for tough talk against the West -- as China's new foreign minister.