Chinese President Xi Jinping, on Tuesday, made his first appearance on state television after a several-day absence from public view that sparked rumours that the 69-year-old leader had lost control of the country.
Jinping, on the state television of China, was shown visiting a display at the Beijing Exhibition Hall on the theme of "Forging Ahead into the New Era.” He was also accompanied by Premier Li Keqiang and other top leaders, Xi, who is also head of the ruling Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army.
This visit was the Chinese President's first appearance on television since he returned from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand earlier this month. Under China’s 'Zero Covid Policy’, Jinping would need to stay in quarantine for a week after returning.
In the last few days, speculation about Chinese President Xi Jinping being placed under house arrest had taken over social media, with rumours doing rounds that Xi had been removed as the chief of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The timing of Jinping’s absence just weeks before the convening of the Communist Party of China's (CCP's) crucial 20th Party Congress, held once every five years, fanned the rumour mill. In addition to this, there were also pictures and videos circulating on social media claiming military trucks were on their way to Beijing.
Chinese President Jinping is also expected to receive a third five-year term as party leader beginning October 16, breaking the recent tradition that limited leaders to two terms.
According to experts, China’s opaque system frequently gives rise to rumours of political infighting or attempted coups, despite the stable nature of the authoritarian surveillance that cracks down relentlessly on any sign of dissent.
As per media reports, Jinping is widely considered China's most powerful leader in decades, has no known active challengers, and has removed constitutional term limits, allowing him to rule for life should he wish. Moreover, it is not unusual for Chinese leaders to drop out of sight for days or even weeks, for example, to attend informal political meetings held at the beachside resort of Beidaihe each summer.
Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese Studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King's College London, said he was highly sceptical that there was anything more to be read into Xi's brief absence. He said, “I guess if there was deep dissatisfaction with Xi's leadership in the elite... we would have seen at least a bit of evidence.”
The party is inherently risk averse, and any person or group seeking to pull off such radical action would have a very tough time attacking an edifice that has been built almost entirely around Xi, Brown added.
(With input from agencies)
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