Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu has been removed from his positions as defense chief and state councilor, state-run media said Tuesday, in a move sanctioned by President Xi Jinping nearly two months after Li disappeared from public view.

The state-run Global Times newspaper said Xi had signed a presidential decree on Tuesday to remove Li from the defense minister post and the more powerful position on the State Council.

It did not give a reason for the dismissal or name a replacement, though Gen. Liu Zhenli, the head of the military body responsible for China's combat operations and planning who is close to Xi, has emerged as the top contender.