Communist Leader’s Absence Sets Off Rumor Mills in China

Strange disappearance from public view of China’s presumptive new leader is turning a year that was supposed to showcase Communist Party’s stability into something of an annus horribilis. Over the past week, the new leader, Xi Jinping, has missed at least three scheduled meetings with foreign dignitaries, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Wednesday and the prime minister of Denmark on Monday. So far officials have declined to provide explanation for his absences. That set off furious speculation on the Internet that the 59-year-old Mr. Xi’s health, either physical or political, has taken a turn for the worse. Some diplomats say they have heard Mr. Xi suffered a pulled muscle while swimming or playing soccer. One media report, since retracted, had it that Mr. Xi was hurt in an auto accident when a military official tried to injure or kill him in a revenge plot. A well-connected political analyst in Beijing said in an interview Mr. Xi might have had a mild heart attack. Whatever the actual reason, Mr. Xi’s unexplained absences are conspicuous on eve of what is supposed to be China’s once-in-a-decade transfer of power. It also adds to a litany of woes that have disrupted Communist Party’s hopes a seamless political transition would send a signal of stability to Chinese people and world at large. Two unusual political scandals have sidelined people considered contenders for seats on the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, most recently including a close ally of President Hu Jintao’s. China’s economy has fallen into an unexpectedly deep slump, confounding government forecasts for a measured slowdown. Party leaders have also yet to announce a date for the 18th Party Congress, the event to mark the retirement of this generation of leaders and the accession of the next, though it is supposed to take place as soon as next month. Mr. Xi was designated internally as the presumptive heir to Mr. Hu as the leader of the Communist Party, head of state and chairman of the top military oversight body in 2007, a full five years before he was expected to assume those posts. Party bosses have tried to name future leaders well in advance to prevent destabilizing jockeying for power. Smooth transitions are considered by many Chinese as a crucial test of the Communist Party’s longevity, and its leaders are eager to make the case their authoritarian system can manage China better than a multiparty democracy could. Analysts who follow Chinese politics say the transition is still likely to happen roughly along the planned lines. They also say the core leadership team around Mr. Xi is slowly taking shape, with the lineup of the Standing Committee coming into focus as the Congress draws near. But at very least, the atmospherics are turning out to be far messier than envisioned, with officials stumbling to maintain their usual careful choreography (…..)



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Consultor Internacional

5 Responses to Communist Leader’s Absence Sets Off Rumor Mills in China

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: There is no reason for an orange alarm about Mr. Xi Jinping’s public absence. However, this irreverent way of delivering the news should be more cautious. Like or not, China is fundamental to get the US economy out of the worst recession in memory. Thus, a proper, respectful treatment of Chinese leaders is in the best interest of the US and the NYT. Is good business, as one operator in Wall Street would say.

  2. John H: The purpose of a free and open press is to discover and report the facts, irreverent or not. In fact, the Old Gray Lady often does her best work by being irreverent, e.g. the Pentagon papers.

  3. Idd: @John H, “The purpose of a free and open press is” is to give individuals political speech. The facts have nothing to do with it. Journalism as we now it today didn’t exist when the US constitution was written, it was mostly trash talk (kinda like Fox News is today). To be sure, there was some great stuff published back then, but just not most of it.

  4. John in the USA: I am curious as to how this story could lead to calls for more cautious news delivery. Your implication that this story is improper or disrespectful is utterly bizarre.

  5. Cynthia: Frankly, your exhortation that the NYT and the US be more respectful of Communist Chinese leaders sounds pretty downright ominous. Why the heck should we be respectful of Chinese leaders when we’re not respectful of our own? How about exhorting Communist Chinese leaders to grow a thicker skin, and become receptive to criticism from outsiders?


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