• Sun. Apr 2nd, 2023

    Xi dispels rumors with televised visit to exhibit


    Sep 28, 2022

    BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping reappeared on state television on Tuesday after being absent from public view for several days, sparking rumors about the 69-year-old leader’s political fortunes.

    Xi was shown visiting a display at the Beijing Exhibition Hall on the theme “Forging Ahead into the New Era.” Accompanied by Premier Li Keqiang and other top leaders, Xi, also the head of the ruling Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), viewed some of the displays and commented on the East Asian country’s economic progress over the past decade.

    During his visit, the president called for efforts to forge ahead toward what he called a new victory of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

    He said the events, changes, and achievements made since 2012 had resulted in better institutions, firmer material foundations, and a more proactive mindset. He also urged increased public awareness of the measures, practices and breakthroughs of the last 10 years.

    The visit was Xi’s first appearance on TV since he returned from a regional summit in Uzbekistan last weekend.

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    Under China’s pandemic regulations, he would need to stay in quarantine for a week after returning.

    China’s opaque system frequently sparks rumors of political infighting or attempted coups despite the stable nature of the authoritarian surveillance state that cracks down relentlessly on any sign of dissent.

    Xi is widely considered China’s most powerful leader in decades, has no known active challengers and has removed constitutional term limits that allow him to rule for life if he wishes.

    It is not unusual for Chinese leaders to drop out of sight for days or even weeks, for example, to attend informal political meetings held at the beachside resort of Beidaihe each summer.

    However, the timing of Xi’s absence just weeks before the convening of a key party congress held once every five years provided grist to the rumor mill. He is expected to receive a third five-year term as party leader at the congress beginning October 16, in a break with recent tradition that limited leaders to two terms.

    Kerry Brown, an expert on Chinese politics, said he was highly skeptical that there was anything more to be read into Xi’s brief absence.

    “I guess if there was deep dissatisfaction with Xi’s leadership in the elite…we would have seen at least a bit of evidence,” said Brown, a professor of Chinese Studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London. “And I don’t think we’ve seen much evidence of that.”

    The party is inherently risk-averse, and any person or group seeking to pull off such radical action would have a very tough time attacking an edifice that has been built almost entirely around Xi, the expert added.

    Rumors of coups and infighting are not unusual ahead of sensitive political dates, but the PLA — the party’s military wing — has been disciplined by a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

    “I think it’s wishful thinking maybe in Hong Kong and elsewhere,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t think it’s very credible.”



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