Just weeks after describing China's behaviour as "vindictive", Graham Fletcher, Australia's ambassador in Beijing has been promoted.
It comes as another former ambassador to China, Frances Adamson, is due to step down from her role as secretary of the department to next month to become governor of South Australia later in the year.
Graham Fletcher, who had been the ambassador to the People's Republic of China for a year and a half at the time of the undiplomatic outburst, had earlier applied for the top departmental role covering the Indo-Pacific.
A notice confirming Mr Fletcher's move into the Canberra-based position was sent out through public service channels, but the department says that was in error. The ambassador will not be returning to Australia at this time, a spokesperson for the department confirmed.
The ambassador drew international media attention in March for describing China as possibly unaware of the international impact of its trade restrictions on Australian goods.
"It's been exposed as quite unreliable as a trading partner and even vindictive," he was quoted as telling a China-Australia business group.
John Blaxland, professor of International Security & Intelligence Studies at ANU says the comments were no more acerbic than the words from the diplomatic spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.
"China has a choice how it wants to play this - recognise Graham Fletcher promotion as a doffing of the hat to the Australian significance of the relationship with Beijing, or downplaying or perhaps even ignoring it," Professor Blaxland says.
"They do not have to play another wave of Wolf Warrior diplomacy."
Even though China's official diplomatic channels are closed to Australia at present, having the ambassador in Beijing was needed, he says.
"We need people who have the most sophisticated and in-depth understanding of the tea leaves in Beijing and able to report back what they're seeing and the implications are."
Ms Adamson's tenure at the head of Australia's diplomatic corps has seen it take a sharper turn in how it responds to China, pushing back more often, a turn that Professor Blaxland says started before Scott Morrison became Prime Minister.
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