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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where is Mr Xi?

Someone from the standing committee must be having a barbecue with a few close colleagues...
Washington Post:
Chinese micro-bloggers and overseas websites have come up with all kinds of speculation as to why the current vice president has gone unseen for more than a week. During that span, Xi canceled meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. On Monday, it was the Danish prime minister’s turn.[...]So when the presumptive head of that opaque leadership disappears from public view, rumor mills naturally go into a frenzy.
The Foreign Ministry claimed the Xi-Thorning-Schmidt meeting was never intended to take place.
“As I said last week, China’s state councilors will meet the Danish prime minister,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. When asked about the rumors of an injury, Hong said “we have told everybody everything,” and refused to elaborate.
Most online speculation about the portly 59-year-old Xi has centered on a back problem, possibly incurred when he took a dip last week in the swimming pool inside the Zhongnanhai leadership compound. Another rumor has the back being hurt in a soccer game. It wasn’t clear what the sources of the information were.
More dramatically, the U.S.-based website Boxun.com cited an unidentified source inside Zhongnanhai as saying Xi was injured in a staged traffic accident that was part of a revenge plot by Bo’s supporters in the security forces. Another member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, He Guoqiang, was also injured in a similar incident, said the site, which acts as a clearinghouse for rumors and unsubstantiated reports. It has correctly predicted some recent political developments and been wildly off the mark on others.

Either he ends up as President or there is a single paragraph item in the People's Daily saying he got a bullet in the back of the head for stealing office stationery - that's politics when you've only got one party.

The sudden transfer of a key secretary to President Hu Jintao earlier this month also spawned conjecture about a Ferrari crash involving the aide’s son and an ensuing attempted cover-up.
Rumors about Xi were churned further by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cryptic remark over the weekend that the start of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum leaders’ meeting in Vladivostok had been delayed because Hu needed to attend to an important but unspecified domestic issue.

The succession problem besets many Asian nations. North Korea and Singapore have developed a dynastic power structure (inter-generational rule by the same family for many decades). Malaysia's ruling party stumbled as the leader's chosen replacement turned out to have his own mind and was then bashed by the cops and charged with trumped up sex crimes by the elite of that party. The Philippines and Thailand have had their share of coups and uprisings that have cut across the legal and electoral rules. Taiwan has had it's challenges when the KMT finally lost their stranglehold on office. The conclusion I'm tempted to reach is that the Asian countries by and large try to manage leadership as internal party decisions made by a small cadre because they regard the open contest (of Western democracies) as a weakness that jeopardises the whole social order - as if democracy were a form of anarchy.

And it's not just an issue of dictatorship. In Japan where they have a competitive multi-party democratic system there is still a continuity issue: a revolving door operates that sees PMs come and go without more than a year or so in office as internal party factional machinations bring down one after another. The Japanese constitution was imposed by the US after the war. I can can understand that when this is put up as an alternative to the above many people will prefer the assumed outward stability of a one party system and the long spells by their leaders in the top office regardless of their actual public support.


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