Xi Jinping’s absence fuels rumors in China
Chinese President Hu Jintao, (R), Premier Wen Jiabao, (L), and Xi Jinping celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Youth League. AP photoSpeculation has been mounting about the whereabouts of Chinese Vice President and likely next leader Xi Jinping, who has not been seen for over a week. Adding further intrigue, a scheduled photo session with visiting Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, which the media had been asked to cover, was taken off the program on Sept. 10.
There has been all kind of speculation among Chinese micro-bloggers and overseas websites as to why the current vice president has gone unseen for more than a week. Most online speculation about the portly 59-year-old has centered on a back problem, possibly incurred when he took a dip last week in the swimming pool inside the Zhongnanhai leadership compound. China’s popular micro blogging site Sina Weibo blocks searches for Xi’s name.
The U.S.-based website Boxun.com cited an unidentified source inside Zhongnanhai as saying Xi was injured in a staged traffic accident that was part of a revenge plot by Bo Xilai’s supporters in the security forces. Another member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, He Guoqiang, was also injured in a similar incident, said the site, which acts as a clearinghouse for rumors and unsubstantiated reports. Xi, who is due to take over the presidency of the world’s second-largest economy in March next year, has skipped several meetings with visiting foreign leaders and dignitaries over the past week, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Singapore Prime Minister.
China sends ships to warn
Meanwhile, a territorial flare-up between China and Japan intensified as Beijing sent patrol ships near disputed East China Sea islands in a show of anger over Tokyo’s purchase of the largely barren outcroppings from their private owners. The arrival of the two ships of the China Marine Surveillance off the islands was meant to assert China’s claims, according to the Chinese government’s official news agency, Xinhua.
The dispute over islands, known as Senkaku to the Japanese and Diaoyu to the Chinese, has been heating up in recent months, in part because Tokyo proposed buying them.