- The Chinese journalist who fled to New York, Jennifer Zeng, tweeted that roughly 60 percent of the 16,602 planes scheduled for September 21 were cancelled without explanation
- According to News Highland Vision, former Chinese President Hu Jintao and former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao convinced former Standing Committee member Song Ping to regain control of the Central Guard Bureau (CGB).
In the past few days, social media rumours from many sources reporting an attempted military coup in China and the home arrest of President Xi Jinping went viral. The alarming but unsubstantiated statements attempted to depict a chaotic picture of China and a significant political transition, which was a hoax.
Some prominent news outlets, including those in India, reported the assertions as “exclusive news,” generating a buzz on social media. A critical gathering of China’s ruling Communist party is scheduled for next month, during which Xi is anticipated to be handed an unprecedented third term.
It appears that these were unsubstantiated statements disseminated by unverified social media accounts with no supporting proof given. It is most likely a dish prepared on Twitter and seasoned with extra salt and pepper by the Twitterati, with the hashtag #ChinaCoup trending widely on Twitter.
At the once-every-five-years summit, Xi is anticipated to be reappointed as the leader of the party and military commission. State media on Sunday published the list of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) central committee delegates for the party congress.
How did the rumour of Xi’s removal originate?
According to media sources, the rumour began when a small number of social media accounts posted that major Chinese lawmakers had hatched a plot to depose Xi Jinping while he was in Samarkand. Former president Hu Jintao, former premier Wen Jiabao, and Politburo Standing Committee member Song Ping were among the rumoured conspirators. Allegedly, the three politicians plotted to replace Xi as the head of the Chinese Army.
Nearby Tian’anmen Square swarms with thugs in plainclothes. I’ve been in China long enough to know these are not tourists. /3 pic.twitter.com/xTwglk4v8i
— Georg Fahrion (@schorselysees) September 25, 2022
According to rumours, Xi learnt about the scheme while in Uzbekistan and was placed under house arrest upon his September 16 arrival. New Tang Dynasty TV, or NTDTV, is a Chinese-banned news outlet funded by the neo-spiritual group Falun Gong. NTDTV propagated the rumours. NTDTV produced an item asserting that Xi was absent from the just finished national security and military seminar.
The Chinese journalist who fled to New York, Jennifer Zeng, tweeted that roughly 60 percent of the 16,602 planes scheduled for September 21 were cancelled without explanation. However, in her subsequent tweet in the thread, Zeng stated that the cancellation of 9,583 flights might be the result of a military directive or a standard process because to the epidemic.
According to News Highland Vision, former Chinese President Hu Jintao and former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao convinced former Standing Committee member Song Ping to regain control of the Central Guard Bureau (CGB).
CGB’s aim is to provide close personal protection to members of the Politburo Standing Committee and other CCP leaders, for those unaware. The committee is also responsible for Xi Jinping’s protection.
As Hu and Wen retook leadership of CGB, Jiang Zeng and the Central Committee members in Beijing were informed via telephone. The original members of the standing committee immediately revoked Xi’s military authority.
Do the allegations of a coup have any basis?
Drew Thompson, a former Department of Defense official, stated that the reports were completely false. He stated that the cancellation of the flight was due to COVID-19 and military concerns that had nothing to do with a coup. Moreover, he stated that the rumours were “much ado over nothing.”
Aadil Brar, a columnist and Indo-Pacific politics expert, also dismissed the claims of a coup. Brar asserted in a Twitter thread that Xi is most likely quarantined after returning from Samarkand, under conventional COVID-19 policy. Additionally, he asserted that no planes were cancelled anywhere. Additionally, Brar provided a copy of an email, which he said was from Xi Jinping himself, congratulating China News on its 70th anniversary.
The journalists also uploaded a few of videos from political pressers, which claimed that everything in Beijing was perfectly normal.
However, when a Twitter user questioned Zeng on Thursday if there was a military coup in China, she replied that there was unsubstantiated information regarding the coup.
What is the reality?
A scholar from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Drew Thompson, stated that a coup in China was not completely improbable. Thompson stated that Xi has allegedly expressed anxiety about the possibility in the before, but the weekend’s rumours appeared to be “wishful thinking.”
They appeared to have originated from accounts linked with the Falun Gong movement, which Thompson deemed “basically untrustworthy.”
“The rumour that Xi Jinping has been detained has legs since it is such a delicate political time in China, and the recent trials (and convictions) of long-serving senior officials generates a hothouse atmosphere,” he tweeted.
This video of military vehicles moving to #Beijing comes immediately after the grounding of 59% of the flights in the country and the jailings of senior officials. There’s a lot of smoke, which means there is a fire somewhere inside the #CCP. #China is unstable. https://t.co/hSUS3210GR
— Gordon G. Chang (@GordonGChang) September 24, 2022
Thompson, a former US State Department official, stated that media coverage frequently overstated or emphasised their antagonism to Xi and the CCP. In this instance, the topics they have been reporting on and highlighting for a long time suddenly became mainstream.
Other experts, such as the author of Sinocism, Bill Bishop, believed the rumours to be “BS,” but the “inherent opacity” of the CCP procedures facilitated their propagation.
The most senior posts are not announced until the penultimate day of the party conference, which is a covert power distribution process. As the conference approaches, government control of the home narrative and suppression of opposition have strengthened in recent weeks.
Since last weekend, when he returned to China from the SCO Summit in Uzbekistan, Xi has been away from the public spotlight. According to observers, he is likely quarantining.
Thompson stated, “I believe the fact that this rumour spread so far and was deemed realistic enough to analyse is indicative of a fundamental flaw in Chinese government.”
“This is a narrative about the obscurity and uncertainty surrounding Chinese high-level succession. Looking back through history to 1949, the succession of senior leaders has been tumultuous. Hu Jintao was the first successful power transfer in which nobody was imprisoned or killed… Xi Jinping has established a brand-new paradigm in which no successor has been identified, which prompts the question, “What would succession look like if it were unplanned or uncontrolled?”
The Chinese government has not responded to the rumours, but public security authorities were among those posting under the hashtag “the truth about large-scale cancellations of flights across the country,” disputing the significance of the cancellations, which they claimed were typical for a pandemic.