The man expected to become one of the two most important leaders on the planet has dropped from sight for more than a week–and the world is none the wiser why. Vice President and president assumptive Xi Jinping hasn’t been heard of since the beginning of this month. He has cried off meetings with various visiting politicians including U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Nor did he appear in a TV broadcast on Wednesday that included most of his fellow members of the Politburo. The rumour mill has gone into overtime: Xi is sick, injured, suffered a stroke, fallen victim to a political coup, wounded by an assassination attempt, eloped with Kim Jong Il’s new wife. We invented the last, but there is no more hard evidence for any of the alternative explanations.
State media have been unforthcoming to an extent that is tight lipped even by their standards. This is another reminder of how little the world knows about the inner workings of China’s political elites. But China now occupies a place of importance on the world stage. The time has passed when the health of top leaders needs to be guarded like a state secret, to be kept from both a country’s own people and the rest of the world.