The governor of China's Guangdong province abruptly resigned on Friday, after an eight-year stint helping oversee the economic and export powerhouse which has faced wrenching industrial, social and economic challenges in recent years.
There was no indication why Huang Huahua, 65, had stepped down, but analysts suggested the move might be linked to economic difficulties.
Huang, a former factory worker and a well-connected Guangdong native, was replaced by the province's deputy governor. Though within retirement age, he still had two years to run in his mandate.
The way in which he stepped down is different from other equivalent officials in the past, said Johnny Lau, a Hong Kong-based commentator.
Because in the past few years ... other Guangdong senior officials have been caught up in corruption scandals ... it's hard for people not to link his departure with a possible economic cause.
Huang had been seen as one of a number of provincial chiefs of his era expected to step down soon, according to Cheng Li, a China expert with the Brookings Institution.
The official Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said only that a provincial leadership committee had accepted his request to resign after a meeting.
One of China's most affluent regions, Guangdong has been hit by political scandals, including the dismissal of former Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng in a widespread corruption scheme.
The Southern Metropolis Daily, one of southern China's best-selling papers, published a front page interview with Huang on Friday in which he set out his views on Guangdong's development.
Huang had worked under Guangdong's Communist Party secretary Wang Yang, who is jockeying for promotion to the elite nine-member Politburo Standing Committee with the current generation of leaders, including president Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, due to step down next year.
Guangdong churns out around 26 percent of China's total trade, including the world factory of the Pearl River Delta. The province has had to deal with chronic pollution from factory towns, urban and rural riots over police excesses and brazen land grabs, migrant worker tensions and a yawning wealth gap.
(Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ron Popeski)