When someone disappears in China, it’s usually a dissident or a political activist—not the country’s next leader. That’s why speculation is growing about the whereabouts of Xi Jinping.
Xi, who’s the current vice president, hasn’t been seen in public since September 1st. Since then, he’s cancelled meetings with foreign guests, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and, on Monday, the Danish Prime Minister.
This set off a flurry of questions on Tuesday for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. However, Spokesman Hong Lei was in no mood to answer them.
[Hong Lei, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman]:
"I hope you can ask more serious questions."
Many Chinese analysts believe the reaction by the Chinese Foreign Ministry highlights how Chinese censors do not want netizens to speculate. Xi Jinping’s name remains a restricted search term on the popular Sina Weibo. Still, various explanations have appeared on the internet for Xi’s absence.
These range from a simple back injury to attempted assassination from political rivals. Citing unnamed sources, Reuters reported today that Xi is unwell, but did not elaborate.
NTD’s Senior China Analyst Tianxiao Li believes there is more to the story.
[Tianxiao Li, Senior China Analyst]:
“Xi would have been meeting Hillary Clinton as a successor to power, and the new leader of the country. This meeting would have set up a platform for them to get to know each other, this would have been the goal—so whether he was avoiding the meeting, or has gone missing, something more is going on.”
Xi’s unexplained disappearance suggests that arrangements for the Communist Party’s leadership transition are far from settled. But given the information vacuum from official sources, speculation will remain for now.
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