Xi Jinping, Vice President of China and apparent successor to President Hu Jintao, has mysteriously vanished from the public light, casting a shadow of doubt on the year that was supposed to showcase the stability of the Communist Party.
According to The New York Times, Xi has missed at least three scheduled meetings with foreign dignitaries over the last week, including Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton; officials have declined to provide any explanation for his absences.
Last Wednesday, Xi canceled a meeting with Clinton and Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong of Singapore. A similar incident occurred on Monday; foreign journalists were invited to a photo opportunity between Xi and Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark. Come Monday, however, the Foreign Ministry denied the existence of any such meeting and had Thorning-Schmidt meet with other Chinese officials.
While there has been no official comment on Xi’s absences, a whirlwind of theories have appeared on the Internet, ranging from sporting injuries to a heart attack.
“There’s every sort of crazy rumor about Xi’s health,” a Chinese journalist who asked not to be identified reported to The Times. “But no one is saying anything.”
Further complicating the matter is the fact that a date has yet to be announced for the 18th Party Congress, the event that marks the retirement of the current generation of China’s leaders and the ushering in of the next. Party congresses are held every five years and are generally always held in October.
“These are not signs that everything is going well,” Bo Zhiyue, a political science professor at the National University of Singapore, told the Times. “Negotiations seem to be going on.”
Xi’s last confirmed public appearance was on Sept. 1 when the vice president addressed students at the opening fall semester of the Central Party School.