By James Griffiths
Heir apparent to the Chinese presidency, Xi Jinping, hasn’t been heard from in nine days, forcing the Western press to write awkward stories speculating about the goings-on of the Chinese leadership, despite no-one really knowing anything about the goings-on of the Chinese leadership, as exemplified by Malcolm Moore in the Telegraph:
Xi Jinping, 59, has not been seen in public since September 1, setting off rumours that he may be seriously ill or worse ahead of his unveiling at the Communist party’s 18th Congress.
Such is the opacity of the party, however, that there has been no explanation for Mr Xi’s absence; yesterday (MON), the Chinese Foreign ministry simply said, after several questions: “We have told everyone everything”.
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’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. It has correctly predicted some recent political developments and been wildly off the mark on others.
The Financial Times on the other hand highlights a really stellar piece of public relations by the powers-that-be:
Monday’s edition of the Study Times, a major official Communist Party newspaper, ran a front-page article based on a speech Mr Xi gave on September 1, the last time he was seen in public.
Because nothing stops rumours that someone is dead better than recycling a speech they gave over a week ago.
The Daily Mail brings some rare level-headedness to the story:
“There is a long-standing practice of not reporting on illnesses or troubles within the elites,” said Scott Kennedy, director of Indiana University’s Research Centre for Chinese Politics and Business in Beijing.
“The sense is that giving out such information would only fuel further speculation.”