Xi Jinping resurfaces after trip abroad dispels coup rumors

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made his first public appearance since returning from a trip to Central Asia, quashing baseless rumors of a “coup” that sparked a frenzy of speculation ahead of a major Chinese Communist Party meeting.

Xi on Tuesday visited an exhibition in Beijing that showcases China’s achievements over its decade in power, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

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On the network’s main nightly news, Xi was shown wearing a face mask and viewing displays at the Beijing Exhibition Hall — where photos of himself heavily featured. He was joined by the prime minister, Li Keqiang, and other top leaders, including all members of the party’s supreme Politburo Standing Committee.

Xi has not been seen in public since returning to Beijing from a regional summit in Uzbekistan on Sept. 16. The visit was his first trip abroad in nearly 1,000 days since the start of the pandemic.

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His absence gave rise to a whirlwind of online rumours, alleging — with no evidence — that he had been overthrown in a military coup and placed under house arrest.

The baseless rumors were further fueled by allegations of mass flight cancellations — a common occurrence under China’s Covid-zero restrictions — and unverified videos of military vehicles on the road.

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The wild speculation — which originated from Chinese dissident networks before being picked up and amplified by Indian media — was so intense that the hashtag “chinacoup” was trending on Twitter over the weekend.

That the rumor spread so quickly is largely due to the highly opaque nature of the Chinese political system, in which important decisions are mostly made behind closed doors.

The absence of information means that even veteran observers of elite Chinese politics maintain a “never say never” approach, noting that while an occurrence such as a coup remains highly unlikely, it is impossible to know for sure what is actually happening.

On this occasion, most were quick to point out the total lack of credible evidence supporting the alleged “coup”.

Even as the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China is adhering to a strict zero Covid policy favored by Xi.

The Chinese border is still largely closed, with all international arrivals required to undergo seven days of hotel quarantine, followed by three days of home isolation. Xi visited the exhibition ten days after returning to China.

In July, after a short trip to Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule, Xi disappeared from the public eye for more than a week, before being aired on state television visiting the far west region of Xinjiang. .

But the timing of Xi’s latest absence has heightened intense speculation. Xi is just weeks away from the 20th Party Congress from October 16, at which he is expected to break with tradition and be nominated for a third term in power, further cementing his status as the most powerful Chinese leader in decades. .

Rumors of political infighting and power struggles have long haunted the politics of the Chinese elite thanks to their lack of transparency, especially in the run-up to major events such as the five-year leadership reshuffle.

Under Xi, this information obscurity has only grown as he ruthlessly cracks down on dissent and disloyalty in the party and concentrates power in his own hands. As a result, the power of factions and party elders is believed to have been significantly weakened.

“Political opacity really makes it much easier for people to exchange rumours. There is very little information leaking out from inside China,” said Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago.

Growing public discontent over Xi’s policies also fueled the rumours, Yang said.

“With the zero Covid policy causing frustrations and the economy in crisis, there is a strong desire for change, and we humans often want to believe what we expect to see,” he said.

Source: CNN Brasil

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