China's former ambassador to Japan, Wang Yi, was formally appointed a vice-foreign minister yesterday in the latest reshuffle of government positions in the run-up to the Communist Party's 17th National Party Congress next month. Political analysts suggested that the recent appointments of a number of vice-ministers - who are expected to take over their respective ministries eventually - were part of the usual arrangements ahead of the crucial party congress, when a reshuffle of the nation's key leadership is expected. Mr Wang, 54, had been China's ambassador to Japan since September 2004. His post will be taken over by Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai . Mr Wang's appointment was reported in a brief statement on the State Council's website. According to a report by The Beijing News, Mr Wang was also made the ministry's party secretary, indicating he could become the first vice-minister, taking over from Dai Bingguo . 'The recent series of appointments of vice-ministers reflect some of the reshuffles in government positions at the coming party congress,' said Liu Xutao, professor of public policy at the National School of Administration. Professor Liu said it was the party leaders' usual practice to identify candidates for ministerial posts and appoint them to assume the posts of vice-ministers in the run-up to the party congress. He said changes were still possible after the congress. 'It's because after the 17th party congress, there would still be a half-year gap before the annual National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference meetings [in March], so changes are possible,' he said. Former Shanxi governor Yu Youjun became the Ministry of Culture's party chief and its vice-minister earlier this month in an apparent move to pave his way to succeed Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng . And last month, Jiang Weixin, a former deputy minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, was appointed party secretary and a vice-minister of the Ministry of Construction, a position which is widely seen as a precursor to him replacing 64-year-old incumbent minister Wang Guangtao - who will reach the mandatory retirement age for senior cadres. Meanwhile, the State Council yesterday also removed Fu Wenjuan from the post of vice-minister of construction, Fan Younian from the post of chairman of the board of supervisors for key large-sized state-owned enterprises and Ding Xianjue from the post of the chairman of the board of supervisors for key state-owned financial organisations.