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 35.

    I 100% sure that he has moved to Severn Beach (UK) and opened up a 'Take Away'! My mate Dave's 97 year old gran told him that she saw this guy serving fried noodles to her next door neighbour Dorris.
    So now you know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Well --- the trend line is positive. Chinese people across the board are
    better off today than 20 or 60 years ago. So -- even if the Chinese media is not transparent, the leadership changes pushed thru the Party Central Committee's Organizational Department not transparent, and Chinese capitalism is opaque as well... thing is its works. If the cat is black or white does it really matter as long as it catches mice? Seems like the Chinese system is doing better than most Western paradigms today...

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It is not a question of whether he will turn up or not, rather is a question of whether something is wrong in the leadership of China? We all including Chinese people are eager to know the hidden phenomenon of his absence at meetings. Now it is time for China to tell its weakness?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    It is an interesting new- the absence of Mr Xi Jinping. It is an indication of political unstable in China. The absence of Mr Xi appears after the demolition of two political leaders of communist party, maybe it is his turn to leave the seat.
    But, I hope and wish he will not face the same case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    28. world service fan - "I expect he will turn up soon."

    Yes, his current absence and anticipated promotion are not coincidental.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Isn't it a private affair of a person's whereabout in the western world? Why are people eager to spy detailed information on Xi, even if his name is heard of once or twice? The world is so complex with troubles here and there. I don't see any necessity to track him and then surmise his missing. But I am always asking a question why US is ubiquitous around the world? Who indulges its existence to be the parent or teacher of every country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.


    The people of China are represented by Xi et al, may not be aware it is important they know where their leaders are and the health of the same. This boils down to the state of China keeping people in the dark and not giving their citizens this simple courtesy:


    Because the people of China are not important its the party and its representative who the system operates for not the Chinese people.

    One day and hopefully soon they will realise and get rid of this highly corrupt system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I expect he will turn up soon. He probably needs a bit of a breather before he enters a line of fire probably greater than past leaders had due to the challenges both on land and online.

    Chinese media such as Xinhua news, CCTV, China Daily Newspaper continue to be exposed and ridiculed at testing times. They know they have no reputation and pretend not to realise that. Most open minded Chinese citizens readily say they don't believe their media at such times.

    Their media seeks international recognition but efforts are largely futile. A few bribed Africans say sweet words. That's it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Last year, the official Xinhua News agency was forced to come out with a one-line statement in English denying former President Jiang Zemin had died - following feverish online speculation.
    Why do we care so much? Chinese Govt, Chinese business...
    China is simply more private, tending to seperate public & private.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    "This is a difference between cultures. Western leaders practically file medical reports; Chinese do not. So what?"

    For the billions of average citizens worldwide, so what indeed. But for the major companies with huge investments in China, the countries who border China and the other countries worldwide who have vested economic and military interests in the region (not least the US), the "what" is a major question mark. It's a fascinating cultural clash between the Western media (used to being told almost everything) and the Chinese government and media (used to admitting almost nothing).

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    On Tuesday, Ministry’s Spokesman Hong Lei was asked whether Mr. Xi is in good health. Sticking to CHINESE Govt's usual reticence, Hong said he had no information to give. In fact, he seemed dismissive. He said: “I hope you can ask a serious question.”
    This is a difference between cultures. Western leaders practically file medical reports; Chinese do not. So what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    This situation of the disappearance of one of China's top officials and the secrecy surrounding it, is emblematic of a dysfunctional, decrepit, system of government, incapable of being trusted, not only by it's own people but particularly by the world community. China has proven time and again it is clearly not capable of being a good actor on the world stage, of late in regard to it's preposterous bullying on the South China Sea. Soon however if China persists, it will without a doubt, get a wake up call and it's eyes blackened by a coalition of the relevant Asian nations and the US Navy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.


    LOL - a lot!!!

    Thats right or MISSING and no one knows where they have gone; taken from their homes in the middle of the night for speaking out against the party, or getting in the way of a party members scheme to make their fortune.

    I take it you live with your head in the sand or in denial of facts which don't suite your brainwashed allegiances'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I say we need Obama, he can deal with the Chinese leadership better than that other liar who insulted the Brits, Israelis and Polish people during his recent overseas trip. As J Kerry said, he misunderstood what "overseas trip" meant, it's not tripping up overseas! Romney will be a billion times worse than George W Bush.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    @Swing Lowe

    The people who you claim are treated like 'animals' would be nowhere without the state who provide them with a job, a salary and a decent quality of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    How tragic you sound dcweb! Accepting the system that oppresses you, for it enables your perceived freedoms, between the cracks, while the heavy feet trample above.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Where's Xi? Hu knows!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.


    Over the summer recess I met a young man of Chinese parentage who spoke the language and visited the country and had recently finished at Eton College.

    His contempt for China & Chinese corruption came something of a shock to me; how vexed someone could become about a political system, he used language like evil, corruption & murder.

    I cant claim to understand the system fully or in fact know people who are subjected to the totalitarian system but if this guys comments are anything to go by the system stinks and we are bloody lucky to live in a party political democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    So much nonsense spouted by idiots from the West who have no idea about life in China. You may see the Communist regime here as oppressive and offensive, but the vast majority of people here do not. They don't care about censorship, they don't care that people 'disappear'. You know why? Because by and large, (especially if you live in a city) the government is there to provide for you when you need it most.

    It's quite simple: you don't step out of line, you don't get in trouble and you don't even notice the government is there.

    This place is so vast it feels lawless most of the time...

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.


    If the Chinese think this to be news worthy then heaven help us all!

    So what we all cry! - (and quite right to!)

    In communist societies where information is a privilege of the chosen few (who are invariably more equal than the others), it is not surprising a story as inert as this gets column inches.

    It is a reflection of the deceit of a secretive communist regime who treat their citizens like animals because it suite the chosen few, who are more equal than the rest of them.

    No governing system is perfect but communism is ridiculous!


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