Where is Xi Jinping?

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping meets with Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi, unseen, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 29 August, 2012 Nobody knows for certain why Mr Xi has been cancelling his meetings

China is the world's second biggest economy, its rising superpower, and is on the cusp of a once-in-a-decade leadership change, but the man expected to take over at the head of the Communist Party has vanished from view, and we don't know why.

Is Xi Jinping sick? Has he had a mild heart attack? Did he hurt his back playing football or swimming? Is he extraordinarily busy preparing for the day, probably next month, when he will be elevated to take over from Hu Jintao as the head of China's Communist Party, or is there some more sinister power struggle happening?

All have been suggested as explanations on China's buzzing social media sites.

It has even been claimed he was injured in a car crash, which was maybe a plot against him. But that seems fanciful.

However, nobody knows for certain because China's government is not saying, and that in itself is unsettling many.

When Communist party figures disappear from view it sometimes sends a signal that they are in trouble. There is no evidence that is the case now but, without a simple explanation, rumours have been swirling and they have broken into the open.

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Until Mr Xi appears again in public, the uncertainty won't abate”

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China's leaders often keep a low profile. Their movements are rarely announced in advance, and they may be out of sight for days at a time.

But Mr Xi, China's vice-president and the heir apparent, who is 59, has been cancelling meetings with visiting foreign leaders, which is unusual.

He was last seen on 1 September. He cancelled a meeting with Hillary Clinton at the last minute last Wednesday. American officials said they understood a back problem was the reason.

Danish sources said the next day, on Thursday, he cancelled again, this time on the visiting Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who was due to meet him on Monday.

They couldn't say why. But Mr Xi has also cancelled on Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. China's leaders are usually sticklers for protocol, so calling off these events is highly unusual.

According to the Reuters news agency "a source close to the Beijing leadership" said that "Xi injured his back when he went for a daily swim... the source declined to give further details on the injury, including exactly when and where the incident took place."

A second source, "citing people close to Xi, told Reuters 'He's unwell, but it's not a big problem.'"

'Nothing to add'
File picture of Hong Lei, China's foreign ministry spokesman on 5 September, 2012 China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, says he had 'nothing new to add'

But given China's new status, its new weight as an economic and political power, such uncertainty is a problem. And if Mr Xi is about to take over as China's leader for the next 10 years his health is an issue that is significant for the Communist Party, for China and for the rest of the world.

China has undergone an extraordinary transformation in the past decade under Hu Jintao. But what has not changed is the secrecy surrounding its leaders. Their health, their personal lives, their families and much more are often hidden from view and that is increasingly difficult to sustain.

China's Foreign Ministry was unable to say where Mr Xi is or why he had been a no-show at so many events.

Asked repeatedly for an explanation, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said "I have already answered reporters' questions on this many times. I have nothing new to add."

What the whole affair has added is a fresh twist of uncertainty to China's coming leadership change. The handover has already been complicated by the scandal over the fall of Bo Xilai, who was tipped for a top post.

In China, where the Communist Party stage-manages its once in a decade leadership shuffle, ensuring a smooth succession is of the utmost importance.

Until Mr Xi appears again in public, the uncertainty won't abate.

But in a nation that is now a vital part of the global economy, integrated into global diplomacy, and whose citizens are wired up to the internet, the old-style secrecy surrounding the Communist Party and its leaders looks increasingly untenable.

Damian Grammaticas Article written by Damian Grammaticas Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Where's Xi? Well, ask Hu.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    What's wrong with you
    I am a chinese ,what we chinese did wrong?
    Shame on you !

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Imagine that Joe Biden (the current American VP) has completely disappeared for the past 11 days, and there is almost zero news from any media outlet in the US as to where or how he is, despite the rest of the world's media widely reporting his absence.

    Hard to imagine? Well this is pretty much the Chinese version of that.

    Several media sources are also suggesting that his name is now being blocked on Chinese blog sites. If this is true, Xi's probably got much bigger problems than just a bad back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Since when BBC became one of "uneducated & uninformed Chinese Netizens"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Come on, guys, have some life. Do you really have faith in network junks?Let's mind UK business.

    He may hurt his back. But he doesn't need to be high profile like "Daddy" Philip to push PR to climax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    China does not keep pretty faces in office if they cannot do their jobs, unlike the US which will give someone like Obama another contract for failure.

    Xi may be too much of a western worshipper, so he won't do.

    Or he could be very anti US and anti UK, this could make many foreign worshippers in China to get very worry about their chances to move to those countries.

    And worry about all their offshore money too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Xi is like Clinton`s VP what`s his name, nobody really cares.

    Only the west thinks Xi will be the next China`s leader.

    I wanted Palin to be the next US leader and she got kicked out by a nobody.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Kidnapped by the PLA, which is planning to stage a coup, perhaps? Or maybe he's enjoying his last holiday before he becomes responsible for everything that goes on in China and outside? My last guess would be that they've perfected a Nanomite physical appearance changing machine and he's running free and amok amongst his own people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Rumors will circulate in both a transparent culture and a censored culture... with the MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP in China's past ten years I can "IMAGINE" many reasons why Mr. Xi might be keeping a low profile; however, "IMAGINATION" doesn't always lead to USEFUL or TRUTHFUL outcomes.

    As Damian so blatantly stated - "Until Mr Xi appears again in public, the uncertainty won't abate." Thanks to uneducated & uninformed Chinese Netizens, the Weibuo Rumor Mill won't stop producing it's fruitionless rubbish until Mr. Xi shows his face.

    *I'm a Beijing LaoWai and I endorse Damian!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    CCP's censorship and authority networks are amazing, so where the citizens are slowly becoming more powerful, so too is the regime. This leads to a fascinating/unstable future for China, as growth will eventually reach fewer citizens but it can't keep them from getting more knowledgeable.

    Democracy is the only way to keep humans partly in check. It's not perfect either but the only hope for a system of more equality and rights. It takes an alien to reach the top of the CCP, hiding and keeping its morals 24/7 and change the party from the inside. Let's not fool ourselves, only a revolution can

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Maybe he's just sick? I don't now about him, but when I'm ill, I don't feel like working. Perhaps he's home, in bed, resting?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Xi is in Canada now like millions from China and he is not going back.

    Hiding here is easy and nobody knows know nobody here.

    The west is too nosy, so they had to send him away and without notice.

    And where has that guy the ex pres of Russia gone to, may he is dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Heavily censored media leads to dis-trust. Dis-trust leads to the invetion of the news by the Chinese. The very latest on this is that both Xi and He have been killed!!!!!! My scepticism is only very very slightly mollified by the alleged source - a member of the Ministry of Security!!!

    Oh the joy of living in China (please don't hurt me Chinese internet monitors!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Power corrupts Power.
    He is probably dead so some other power hungry corrupter can replace him.


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