With rumors circulating widely all over Chinese social media regarding the whereabouts of Xi Jinping, who has not been seen in public since September 1st, I am taken back to the classic game I played as a child called, "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"
This is no game (and I just really dated myself), of course, and indeed the stakes are very real.
All fun aside, the rumor mill won't seem to stop. Having cancelled meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Prime Minister of Denmark and Singapore's PM it seems safe to say there is something strange afoot. We may never know the exact details, leading to all the more rabid speculation.
The New York Times is reporting that "diplomats said privately that he had a bad back." Others are speculating about a mild heart attack and others have even speculated that there was an assassination attempt made against him. All the more fodder for social media networks to buzz with activity.
Such rumors are not helping the Chinese Communist Party’s preferred narrative of stability. With the Bo Xilai's falling from grace, his wife being placed on trial, and his police chief also facing charges such a narrative seems impossible to uphold. With the Chinese economy also seeming to be running into in what we call in America 'headwinds' (American politically correct speak for a slowdown) and problems in the South China Sea and with Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea, stability is something China desperately needs at the moment. With the amount of gaze now on Xi, any disappearance, any sign of problems will be poured over.
On the heels of the 18th Party Congress, one would assume a vibrant Xi would want to make the rounds in the media as well with foreign dignitaries to demonstrate his pending rise to power. Xi may not need to swim in the Yangtze, but a quick appearance might be a good idea sooner rather than later. Bad back or not, if there is no major problem, Xi might want to squash the rumor mill.