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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Absence of China's next leader prompts rumors

Central News Agency

2012/09/11 23:00:34

New York, Sept. 10 (CNA) Mounting speculation is surrounding China's vice-president, Xi Jinping, the man in line to become China's next leader, after he unexpectedly canceled a series of public engagements and was last seen in public over a week ago.

The New York Times cited a well-connected political analyst in Beijing as saying that Xi may have suffered a mild heart attack.

Xi unexpectedly canceled a Sept. 5 meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and also failed to show up at a Monday meeting in which he was scheduled to meet Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Xi's absence added yet more twists to China's political arena following a series of political scandals that rocked the country earlier this year -- a year in which the Communist Party of China's once-in-a-decade leadership change is scheduled to take place.

The report said Xi's several last-minute cancellations of his engagements with prominent foreign figures were highly unusual.

Just this spring, former Chongqing Communist Party Chief Bo Xilai vanished from public view, and soon after, his wife was charged with the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Bo was considered destined for one of China's top leadership jobs and his abrupt fall was a serious blow to China's complex political system, the report said.

But after Bo's wife Gu Kailai was convicted and Bo's police chief, Wang Lijun, will soon go on trial for covering up the murder, Bo's case seems close to an end, bringing China's power transition back on track.

However, one of Chinese President Hu Jintao's closest allies, Ling Jihua, was unusually demoted, adding more uncertainty to the country's political scene, according to the report.

Bo Zhiyue, a political science professor at the National University of Singapore, was quoted as saying that the as-yet unannounced date of the Chinese Communist Party's 18th National Congress, along with the series of political scandals, suggest that "these are not signs that everything is going well."

(By Leaf Chiang and Ann Chen)

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