Social media across China and the rest of Asia continues to be in overdrive today as persistent rumours that president Xi Jinping has been removed in a coup refuse to die down.
Local and regional media speculate China’s long-standing leader was removed when he was away in Samarkand while attending the recent SCO summit, on 14 September.
Xi Jinping has reportedly not been seen in public since then although any rumours have been widely debunked in the last 24 hours.
Nevertheless, according to various reports in half a dozen Asian countries today, including India and Singapore, there are unconfirmed reports Xi Jinping has been placed under house arrest and is being replaced by the powerful army general Li Qiaoming.
Li Qiaoming, who is among the most senior officials of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has served as commander of the Northern Theater Command since September 2017.
When approached by City A.M. this afternoon local time in Beijing, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to comment.
Despite the rumours circling for days, the Chinese government has remained silent and the country’s state broadcaster not aired any denial or response. However, rumours have been widely debunked.
No show in New York
Most noticeably, Xi did not appear in New York City last week to attend the annual General Assembly meeting while no reason was given for his absence.
US President Joe Biden spoke on Wednesday and most world leaders did make an appearance.
Instead, the Chinese government sent the country’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, who opted to shift the focus to Taiwan, telling world leaders that anyone who gets in the way of its determination to reunify with the self-governing island would be “crushed by the wheels of history”.
The language was forceful but, for Chinese leadership, well within the realm of normal.
“Only when China is fully reunified can there be true peace across the Taiwan Strait,” Wang Yi said at the UN General Assembly.
He stressed Beijing would “take the most forceful steps to oppose external interference”.
China vehemently defends its claim on Taiwan, which separated from the mainland after a 1949 civil war and now functions with its own government.
A recent visit by the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, markedly ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The language, while pointed, reflected China’s usual vehemence about the island; its claim rarely goes unmentioned in major international speeches.
“The PRC government is the sole government representing all of China,” Wang said, referring to China’s formal name, the People’s Republic of China.
“The one-China principle has become a basic norm in international relations.”China’s foreign minister in New York
China exercises regular pressure worldwide on any entity – country, corporation, mapmaker – that even implies Taiwan might be a separate country.
Its muscle has isolated the island’s government, though a few UN members continue to have diplomatic relations with Taipei rather than Beijing.
On Saturday, at the UN meeting, just a few speakers before Mr Wang, the prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, spoke forcefully about allowing Taiwan to raise its profile in international organisations, including the World Health Organisation.
“How can we stand askance, in relative silence and contented inaction, in disregard of Taiwan’s legitimate right to exist in accord with the wishes and will of the Taiwanese people?” he asked.
Mr Wang’s appearance at the 2022 in-person edition of the UN General Assembly comes after two years of remote, pandemic-era speeches by China’s top leader.