China coup rumors quashed by state media

Rumors of a China coup and Xi Jinping’s house arrest have been quashed by a statement released by the Xinhua News Agency revealing Xi Jinping loyalists will all but seal his controversial third term as leader.

The rumors ran rampant across social media in the past few days, with the hashtag “chinacoup” trending on Twitter, with hundreds of thousands of engagements.

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Social media users, including respected Chinese economic and political observers, questioned the reason behind the cancellation of over 9000 flights across China’s mainland around September 23-24, along with the suspension of bus and train services surrounding Beijing – all of which have yet to be fully explained.

Adding to the speculation is an unverified video of an 80 kilometer-long line of military vehicles travelling outside of Beijing.

Where is Xi Jinping?

The Chinese President was last seen publicly in Samarkand, Uzbekistan where he took part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Heads of State Summit. The following image taken on his arrival in Samarkand on September 14 was shared by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Screen Shot 2022 09 25 at 2.18.47 pm China Coup

The Summit concluded on September 16.

Days later, many China observers were struck by Xi’s absence at the China National Defense and Military Reform Seminar, and the prominence of Chinese Peoples Liberation Army General, Li Qiaoming, in state media reports about the event.

“Li Qiaoming, the former commander of the Northern Theater Command, who was previously dismissed and rumored to have participated in the “mutiny”, made a high-profile appearance and was photographed sitting in the front row of the meeting next to Liu Zhenli, the commander of the Chinese Communist Army.,” commented Chinese political commentators Liu Fangli and Liang Xin.

The General has since found himself at the centre of the China coup rumors, with many on social media speculating he will succeed Xi.

Origins of the China coup speculation

One of the first mentions of the rumored China coup, came from the mysterious Chinese-language, @5xyxh Twitter handle. The Twitter user which has over 70,000 followers states in its bio, “It is my responsibility to study and protect the country”.

The user tweeted the following on September 22 (translated from Chinese).

“Xi visited Central Asia on the 14th, and Hu and Wen (Former President Hu Jintao and Former Premier Wen Jiabao) successfully persuaded Song Ping, the former member of the Standing Committee to remove Xi from military power. Jiang Zeng and the members of the Central Committee in Beijing were informed on a single line. The original Standing Committee members removed his military power by a show of hands. When he found out, he returned to Beijing on the evening of the 16th, was controlled at the airport, and is now under house arrest at Zhongnanhai’s home. The real story will be announced at the Seventh Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee. Unable to verify.”

Former Indian government minister and long-serving member of parliament, Subramanian Swamy also talked up the speculation.

“New rumour to be checked out: Is Xi Jinping under house arrest in Beijing ? When Xi was in Samarkand recently, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party were supposed to have removed Xi from the Party’s in-charge of Army. Then House arrest followed. So goes the rumour,” he said.

China coup rumors squashed with announcement that loyalists will seal Xi’s third term as leader

On Sunday, Chinese state media agency Xinhua released a statement revealing close to 2300 Communist Party delegates have been selected to appoint Xi Jinping as President for an unprecedented third term at next month’s 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.

Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the delegates were elected in accordance with the Party Constitution, the CPC Central Committee’s requirements, adopting methods required by the CPC Central Committee,” the statement said.

The statement leaving little doubt about the delegates’ loyalty to Xi. It went on:

The delegates are composed of outstanding CPC members who are highly-qualified ideologically and politically, have good work styles and high moral standards, are competent in discussing state affairs, and have made remarkable achievements in their work.

With Xi path to a third five year term to be sealed by loyalists, it now seem inevitable he’s set to become China’s longest serving leader since Mao Zedong.

But do the rumors signal discontent?

As Asia Markets has previously pointed out, Xi Jinping is more vulnerable than many think in the lead up to the Congress and his seemingly inevitable controversial third term.

Xi is facing an increasingly angry middle class as the nation’s property sector collapses and residents grow more and more frustrated by China’s harsh COVID-zero strategy.

Along with this, many in China were angered over Xi’s seemingly soft reaction to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

The China coup rumors were never verified by any official source and as one mainland China-based commentator told Asia Markets, “at the very least, we would have been in a communications and internet black-out from the moment Xi was arrested.”

However, the question remains who was behind fierce rumors and could there have been any truth to them?

“There’s been a lot of smoke, that says there is a fire somewhere, we don’t think that there has actually has been a coup but at this point there have been some extremely troubling developments at the top of the Communist Party as well as the top of the People’s Liberation Army that reports to the Party, so something is terribly wrong.” said Gordon Chang, author and a former adviser to the U.S. Government on China, on Newsmax.

Even if this all is a series of convenient coincidences, the velocity of the China coup rumors raises the question, are there forces at play, domestic or foreign, attempting to amplify misinformation in order to destabilise the CCP, rattle Xi Jinping and embolden his opponents?