Speculation over China’s ‘missing’ premier elect

Where is China’s president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping?

Chinese micro-bloggers and overseas websites have speculated as to why the vice president has gone unseen for more than a week. Xi has cancelled meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries, including US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Singapore premier Lee Hsien Loong. Yesterday, it was the Danish prime minister’s turn.

Most online speculation about Xi, 59, has centred on a back problem, possibly incurred when he took a dip last week in the swimming pool inside the Zhongnanhai compound.

More dramatically, US website Boxun.com cited an unidentified source as saying Xi was injured in a staged traffic accident that was part of a revenge plot by ousted local Communist Party boss Bo Xilai’s supporters in the security forces.

The tension and the uncertainty are heightened by the timing ahead of a generational shift to a new leadership that is to be headed by Xi.

Xi is expected to become the Communist leader at a party congress held once every five years.

Yet the dates for the meeting, expected in the second half of October, have yet to be announced, prompting talk that at least some of the seats on the nine-member Standing Committee remain up for grabs. Recent economic challenges have also added to the sense of insecurity.

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