Monday, September 10, 2012

Where In the World Is Xi Jinping?

Seriously - I'll be right back...
I find myself amazed and amused this morning by reports out of China that the man expected to take over the political leadership of that giant nation in the next few weeks has disappeared and no one seems to be willing or able to explain his disappearance.  Now, admittedly, this sort of thing is outside my brief.  I like to do a technical evaluation of events, history, forces and capabilities in order to interpret and try to understand international geopolitical events.  I have never been interested in Kremlinology, on the basis of the theory that international relations are driven by national and regional interests, and these interests tend not to be particularly variable over time.  And, of course, when they do shift, that in itself is the big news to be interpreted.

But it's hard to even express how bizarre and out of step Xi Jinping's vanishing act actually is.  This is one of the key factors that sets China apart from all the other modern, powerful nations.  They simply have no institutionalized mechanism for the transfer of power.  It's one thing if that's North Korea, where the Army finds it in their best interests to permit dynastic transfers, or third world banana republics where the people with the guns get to choose the leadership, but for a nation that demands, and in many ways has earned, a seat at the table with other global economic and military powers it is dangerous and unpredictable.

In light of the recent political turmoil driven by events surrounding Bo Xilai and his wife, the sudden evanescence of Xi Jinping has led to rampant speculation.  What is known is that he was last seen on September 1st and has since canceled all meetings, including those scheduled with SecState Hilary Clinton and the Prime Ministers of Singapore and Denmark.  There are rumors that he has health problems, but in these cases it's impossible to know if the rumors are simply that, or if they have been planted intentionally in order to "explain" the inexplicable.  The darker, more interesting speculation is driven by the complete silence of the Chinese political leadership regarding Mr. Xi's whereabouts, leading many to suspect he has been the victim of a very late-stage power play.  Things only become murkier when you realize that the Party Congress in which the new leadership is to be announced has yet to be officially scheduled.  It has long been the expectation that it would happen in October, an assumption that has not been addressed or refuted by the Party leadership up to this point.

Obviously, the maturity and stability of a nation's political system of governance is determined to a large degree in how the leadership is chosen, and how it is changed.  Even if Xi is merely in poor health, it reflects poorly on a governmental system if they are afraid to let that information become public.  People get sick, and they get injured - no one needs their heads of government to appear invincible, but it is impossible for citizens to trust a government so opaque that something like this can happen.  Obviously, there are major questions about Chinese - and global - economic growth, and if they decided to postpone the leadership change and maintain the status quo under Hu Jintao, they might try to provide an alternate explanation that would explain that outcome.  But the silence and utter lack of transparency tells us a great deal about the Chinese system of governance, and none of it is good.


  1. Let he who is without Sun cast the first stone...

  2. He's just having one hell of a "bachelor" party before he has to take over & bear down.

    I'm not much of a Kremlinologist (Forbidden Palace-ologist?) either, 'though I do like schadenfreudy gossip, but one might wonder what Xi's relationship to & w/ the Bos is.

    Does China seem too populous to be governable, while also being too big & nuclear to fail?

  3. but for a nation that demands, and in many ways has earned, a seat at the table with other global economic and military powers

    It is one and makes demands that are taken seriously as a result of that. Little nations make moral arguments.

  4. "One" being a global economic and military power.