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Xi Ain’t Here

China’s next president has disappeared. The blogosphere is erupting with rumors and speculation about why the presumtive leader of the world’s most populous country can’t be found just weeks before he is set to assume the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. The FT reports:

Over the past week Mr Xi has cancelled at least four scheduled meetings with visiting dignitaries including a Russian delegation, Singapore’s prime minister and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton last Wednesday and the prime minister of Denmark on Monday.

An official account did not list him among the attendees at an unscheduled meeting held last Friday by the party’s powerful central military commission, of which Mr Xi is vice-chairman.

Late last week the foreign ministry invited overseas media to cover a meeting between Mr Xi and Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt scheduled for Monday afternoon. But on Monday the ministry denied that the meeting was ever supposed to take place.

When pressed on reports that Mr Xi had suffered a back injury, a ministry spokesman said “We have told everybody everything,” and refused to elaborate.

Xi Jinping is widely assumed to be the Communist Party’s leader-in-waiting. But now no one can find him. The best case scenario: he is bringing presents to orphans in rural China. Some rumors suggest he was injured playing soccer. Perhaps he has been deep in meetings with his advisers, 24 hours a day.

His disappearance is fueling uncertainty about the health of the Chinese economy, which, according to analysts and insiders, is on shaky ground.

With the economy in the doldrums, Beijing needs this political transition to go smoothly. A president-to-be who evaporates right when everyone is looking for him is a bad sign.

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