The Chinese rumour mill has gotten out of control over the last 48 hours. For those who have not heard the rumours, Xi has been supposedly removed in a coup ahead of October’s Party Congress.
By Sept. 24, Xi Jinping had become one of the top trending topics on Twitter. His name appeared on hashtags more than 42,000 times and the term “China coup” circulated 9,300 rounds on the platform, according to The Epoch Times.
“New rumour to be checked out: Is Xi jingping [sic] under house arrest in Beijing?” wrote Subramanian Swamy, a former Indian cabinet minister and parliamentary member until April.
Such speculation also came as Chinese nationals noted alleged mass flight cancellations across the country. Nearly 10,000 flights were supposedly called off on Saturday, the same day a key conference on national defence and military reform was convened in Beijing.
Meanwhile, Xi, who arrived back in China’s capital on Sept. 16 after meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin at a regional summit in Central Asia, didn’t appear at the Beijing meeting but relayed instructions that the armed forces should focus on preparing for war. Similarly missing was Wei Fenghe, his handpicked Chinese military general currently serving as the country’s national defence minister.
China analyst Gordon Chang affirmed that a coup is unlikely, pointing to the lack of supporting evidence on the ground. “I don’t think there was a coup,” he told The Epoch Times. “Because if there were a coup, we would see, for instance, a lot of military vehicles in the centre of Beijing. There have been no reports of that. Also, there probably would be a declaration of martial law that has not occurred.”
“So it seems that something is happening, but we don’t know exactly what,” he said, adding that the only thing that can dispel some of the speculations is if Xi comes out to speak in public.
Zhang Tianliang, a writer and author of the Chinese language book “China’s Path to Peaceful Transition,” similarly dismissed the house arrest theory as not conforming to common sense.
During the past week, six senior Chinese officials, including two former cabinet-level officials, were handed heavy sentences for corruption-related offences, adding to a string of officials purged in Xi’s anti-graft campaign he launched after taking office in late 2012.
How would Xi have the capacity to punish them if he has lost his grip on power, Zhang argued in his show on Sept. 22.
We may not see Xi for a while and so his “disappearance” may continue to fuel this and perhaps other rumours. Whether or not Xi makes a public appearance, though, holds little significance, said Wang He, a U.S.-based commentator on China’s current affairs, noting that such an extended absence from public attention hasn’t been unique for Xi. To Wang, Xi’s overseas trip ahead of the Party congress was a projection of confidence.
“Without absolute assurance, this man will not take risks easily,” he said of Xi.