Mystery of Xi Jinping's two weeks in hiding

Was it illness, an assassination attempt...or simply political brinkmanship? 

Beijing

For a fortnight back in September, China’s vice president and anointed supreme leader, Xi Jinping, disappeared. Vanished.

There was not a peep from the missing leader for two weeks, no official mention of his disappearance and no public comment on it other than to say he was ill.

With days to go until the process of the once-in-a-decade leadership transition begins at the Communist Party’s 18th congress, which starts on Thursday, speculation is back about what exactly happened to Mr Xi.

The timing of the disappearance coincided with heightening tensions over what to do with purged former Party star Bo Xilai, and came just ahead of a flare-up with Japan over a chain of remote islands which both Tokyo and Beijing claim to own.

There were rumours he had injured his back swimming, or put his back out playing football, or even been the subject of an assassination attempt. Whatever happened, it was serious enough to force the 59-year-old to cancel meetings in Beijing with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.

No one knows for sure, but there are a number of theories. The latest has it that his disappearance was a tactical move to force the rest of the leadership to acknowledge that he was prepared to withdraw his candidacy for General Secretary-ship and thus required them to accept that he was indispensable.

This relates to reported tensions between Mr Xi and the current leader, President Hu Jintao.

Businessman Mark Kitto, writing in the magazine Prospect, said there was a meeting in September of the so-called “red second generation” – the sons and daughters of the party’s old guard, the princelings. This group is incredibly powerful, and divided on factional and family lines, and meetings can often become heated, wrote Mr Kitto.

“The meeting turned violent. They went at it hammer and sickle. Xi Jinping tried to calm them down. He put himself physically in the crossfire and unwittingly into the path of a chair as it was thrown across the room. It hit him in the back, injuring him ,” he claimed.

For Steve Tsang, director of the China Police Research Institute at the University of Nottingham, it sounds too much like a story put out by his supporters. “My bet remains that he had suffered from some kind of illness that prevented him from appearing in public without embarrassment,” Mr Tsang said.

“If my assumption is right, then his disappearance did not matter that much. It did not leave major marks on the leadership succession arrangements.”

If it were true that he had withdrawn from sight and threatened to withdraw as a candidate for party leader and president, this would be a sign that he has great political skills and courage. “I remain sceptical that this ever happened or that China was able to get a really dynamic, courageous leader with skills that would make Machiavelli proud,” Mr Tsang said.

“I imagine he was ill because apparently he couldn’t even have his officials agree to him taking a call from Hillary Clinton,” said Kerry Brown, executive director of the China Studies Centre and a Professor of Chinese Politics at the University of Sydney.

“Running to ground at such a sensitive time doesn’t make sense. If he was ill, as I suspect, we are stuck with the rather depressing conclusion that the party is stuck with him whether he is ill or well, good or bad,” Mr Brown added.

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Pay between ?110 - ?130 Day: Randstad Education Cardiff:...

SAP Deployment Manager

£480 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Deployment Manager-Ta...

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Urgently seeking a Dynam...

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game