By Venkatesh Raghavan*
Are the supposed house arrest of Chinese President Xi Jinping following a purported military coup simply rumours spread by a windbag Chinese social media? Within 24 hours of the rumours that drew global attention and speculations, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua today cited an official statement released today, stating that all delegates were elected to attend the upcoming 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). There are a total of 2,296 delegates. Chinese daily Global Times today mentioned that their qualifications were yet to be confirmed by a qualification review committee.
What continues to fuel speculations about Xi is the absence of any official statement either from him or about him after the news of a supposed military coup shocked the world. The rumours on social media about the Chinese President being under house arrest that was countered by narratives about strict quarantining norms for those flying into China from overseas have not yet received any formal official reaction. The major concern that was expressed in official circles around the globe was Xi Jinping’s unprecedented attempt of earning a third term in office as the President of China.
Media houses that are still unable to confirm the veracity of messages flooding the social media platforms opined that if news about Xi Jinping’s house arrest was found to be authentic, this development will overshadow the dramatic impact of the virus outbreak in the country in the penultimate months of 2019. The news about Jinping being unseated from his official designation did the rounds on social media platforms soon after he returned from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand region.
In the absence of official confirmation, reports poured in, in a circumstantial manner, stating that Xi did not have one-to-one conversations with Russian premier Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was also said that Xi made his exit from the SCO summit before its scheduled official closure proceedings.
While reports continued to pour in from Chinese social media users about the city of Beijing being under a military siege, Xi is reported to have lost his military authority over the PLA after the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) standing committee decided on the abolishment. It was being hinted that the veterans of the CCP were responsible for pitching in favour of a change in guard. Tracing back the perspective being currently offered, the China experts pronounced that for nearly two full years Xi had not moved from his Beijing home to meet any world leader. In addition, he had no formal conversations with any of the prominent CCP senior members.
Another circumstantial pitch came when news poured in that over 6000 flights both domestic and international had been cancelled in an abrupt manner. Besides, China’s high-speed rail transport was suspended with immediate effect. Anticipation of political unrest in reaction when such a coup gets publicized has brought the CCP veterans into huddle mode to effect a gargantuan 80 km long military convoy for fortifying Beijing in a pre-emptive manner.
Political experts from China voiced the sentiment that Xi was fully aware of hostilities building within the CCP to oust him from holding the fort for a third term as Chinese president. They attributed their reading of the situation to studying Xi’s behaviour in public and political domains in the previous two years.