China’s Heir Apparent Xi Jinping Reappears in Public After a Two-Week Absence

The mysterious and sudden invisibility of the man who would rule China set countless tongues wagging. Only the markets seemed unperturbed by the rumors and speculation

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Lan Hongguang / Xinhua / ZUMAPRESS.com

Xinhua says that Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping — front row, second from right — attended an educational event at China Agricultural University in Beijing on Sept. 15, 2012

Never have activities commemorating China’s National Science Popularization Day taken on such significance. On Sept. 15, two weeks after China’s Vice President Xi Jinping — and presumptive leader-in-waiting — disappeared from public view, he apparently spent part of Saturday morning attending an educational event at China Agricultural University in Beijing.

China’s official news service, Xinhua, ran a one-sentence story recording Xi’s participation, an article presumably aimed at quelling intense speculation about the Vice President’s whereabouts after he cancelled several scheduled meetings with top foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The story was accompanied by a photo that showed a smiling Xi standing amid a clutch of dark-jacketed men on what was presumably the college campus. A rare blue sky shone overhead, unusual for a capital often swathed in smog. The caption for the photo was longer than the story itself.

Xi’s 14-day disappearance was the latest unforeseen event to shake China’s political establishment, which is set for a once-a-decade leadership transition that could take place as early as next month. No official explanation was given for his absence at a time when official media might have been expected to glorify the man set to soon assume leadership of the world’s second largest economy. Not surprisingly, rumors swirled about his absence. Health problems, ranging from an injured back to a minor heart attack, were mooted. Other sources whispered of a last-minute political putsch, perhaps organized by forces loyal to Bo Xilai, a once powerful politician whose downfall (along with his wife’s sentencing this summer for the murder of a British business consultant) had already thrown China’s leadership handover off-script earlier this year.

Last year, when rumors floated of the death of President Hu Jintao’s predecessor Jiang Zemin, the Chinese state media refuted the speculation within a day. Jiang appeared in public soon after. Why did it take so much longer for Xi to reappear? We will likely not know anytime soon. Perhaps he really had taken to bed with a bad back. Or he has since triumphed in some political battle. One thing is clear: the ruling Communist Party, even if it was compelled to eventually trot out Xi, was content to leave the world guessing for a fortnight.

Still, the business community seemed relatively unperturbed about the Vice President’s whereabouts. Even as the Xi rumors reached their most frenzied —including one wild story that he had been injured in a deliberate car crash orchestrated by a political enemy — the Chinese stock markets hummed along. The thinking among some foreign investors went like this: the Chinese bureaucracy is so entrenched and extensive that it hardly matters who’s at the top. Xi is already seen as a compromise choice for China’s next leader. The Standing Committee that collectively rules China will surely be composed of interests balanced between economic reformists and old-style leftists when its new membership is unveiled during the upcoming leadership shift.

But all this is just more speculation. China is a nation whose unprecedented rise has affected every country on earth. Yet whether we’re talking about foreign businesses that depend on China’s laborers and consumers or the 1.3 billion Chinese citizens themselves, we know almost nothing about what is happening in the cloistered confines of Zhongnanhai, China’s leadership compound. Our ignorance is deeply concerning. No cameo at a National Science Popularization Day event will change that troubling fact.

14 comments
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cenchina
cenchina

The first time I got the news that Mr. Xi had disappeared ,I was really surprised.  but then  he appear again, I can not help but  LOL:  haha, that's the media, only focus on speculating and guessworks . you know what?it looks really stupid! can you just choose the  topics with deeper meanings? I suppose  there are some more concern to our daily life.people would feel better while reading  them.

Redoubt South
Redoubt South

Some Chinese blogs are saying that this guy is a changeling; a look-a-like. 

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

 If true, that would be his identical twin.

rusty cheeks
rusty cheeks

he had run out of and was waiting for a new shipment of hair-dye 

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Perhaps his wife insisted he clean the garage and paint the spare bedroom, or else!

Nothingreallymatters
Nothingreallymatters

Ohhh, believe me, the heavy housework in China all done by women. Men with powers like him abuse women. They don't respect women even their wives. 

zhen tan
zhen tan

Chinese man respect women  more than you heard of

Jamesdly
Jamesdly

It is not true. The women`s power  in China is very strong. You can not imaging their husband how respect their wife.

suresr
suresr

definitely not true. where did you see that? a reversed situation may be the case.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

Chinese women don't even have to change their names when married.

There are also domineering ladies, who historically were able to abuse even emperors (yes, the emperor was her son, but still).

franzsoong
franzsoong

Today , in our homeland, woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Even I don't like "the government", suggest you to say some civilized words as a gentleman. 

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Perhaps the regime is not all that is changing.