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How coup rumors spread in China ahead of Xi Jinping’s major political event

Twitter was flooded with wishful excitement over the weekend’s ouster of Xi Jinping, after a social gathering of the Chinese Communist Party said its chairman was still poised to increase his rule in three weeks.

The bizarre rumors of the Beijing coup and the naval takeover of Chinese-language management replicate what is often a very subtle second in Chinese-language politics.

How rumours about Xi Jinping's coup spread in China
Chinese President Xi Jinping unveils the new Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party Social Rally in Beijing, China, October 25, 2017. On October 25, 2017, the CCP listed its chief among the nearly 2,300 delegates who will collectively elect new management at the 20th National Congress on October 16, 2022.
Zhang Lintao/Getty Images

On October 16, after the CCP holds its biannual national congress, party members will address the composition of key management.

Many expect Mr. Xi, 69, to break the precedent set by his predecessor, retain the party’s main political and naval positions, and develop into a key leader who has held the job for more than two five-year terms since Mao Zedong.

Historically, the meeting was a serious political occasion, with a certain degree of unpredictability surrounding China’s future leaders.

The run-up isn’t all that different from the run-up of a major American Democrat or Republican — a race between competing factions for the perfect candidate to represent the party’s past, present, and future.

Still, since taking power in 2012, Mr. Xi has led multiple rounds of purges of China’s political and naval leaders, half of a larger anti-corruption campaign that has also attracted many of his rivals.

The latest rumors coincided with the high-profile sentencing of Fu Zhenghua by a northeastern China court on Thursday.

In April 2022, Mr Fu, a former justice minister and security minister, was charged with corruption.

China’s anti-corruption watchdog also cited Fu and others as part of a disloyal “political clique,” referring to politicians who challenge Xi Jinping’s authority. He was pardoned to death.

Shortly after the news, Chinese dissidents took to Twitter, focusing on unsubstantiated rumours of an internal rally resistance.

Mass flight cancellations appear to be evidence of defiance, although delays and cancellations are a standard result of China’s implementation of its zero COVID-19 coverage.

In China’s highly regulated information environment, government career prospects are almost never mentioned brazenly, and every public eye is carefully choreographed with no official or unofficial response.

As with most conspiracies, Beijing’s silence and lack of a clear counter-narrative helped these claims gain a brief foothold.

“Xi Jinping” was one of many trending topics on Twitter, along with “Xi Jinping’s house arrest” and “China coup.”

On China’s Weibo, however, seeking “house arrest” returned incoherent results, while “house arrest Xi Jinping” returned the expected system error.

Longtime China watchers would by no means rule out a palace coup, which could be accompanied by alarms reminding people of military restrictions or adjustments at major venues such as gatherings.

Nonetheless, the deterministic environment surrounding Xi’s third period stems from an acknowledgement of the way Chinese language chiefs have focused their efforts over the past decade. He occupies a symbolic position at the “core” of China’s ruling party, influencing the party’s ideology in a way not seen since Mao Zedong.

However, on Sunday, the CCP released a list of 2,296 representatives who will collectively elect the management of the party next month, along with Xi Jinping’s title, and those rumors were ignored.

Xi Jinping wearing a mask confirmed on Tuesday New Literary Association, CCTV CCTV night information program. He participated in an exhibition in Beijing, his first public appearance since traveling to Central Asia on Friday.

Until the final names are introduced in October, assumptions about who will remain in the United management and who will be relegated will continue.

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will trigger a personnel shakeup, bringing together the leaders of the entire seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, but it is almost certain that Xi Jinping will make that shift.

How coup rumours unfolded in China ahead of Xi’s main political occasion

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