A senior Chinese diplomat has been sacked and is under investigation for suspected corruption – the first time a person of such rank has been subjected to the president’s sweeping campaign against graft.

Zhang Kunsheng was no longer an assistant foreign minister after being “suspected of violating discipline”, the foreign ministry said in a brief statement, using the usual euphemism for corruption. It provided no other details.

Chinese state media said Zhang was in charge of the protocol department at the ministry and had been the most senior of the country’s four assistant foreign ministers, who rank below the vice-foreign ministers.

President Xi Jinping has cracked down on corruption since assuming office two years ago, warning, as others have before him, that the problem is so bad it could affect the Communist party’s ability to maintain power.

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