Has a coup taken place in China? The bemused world is groping in the dark for answers as rumors swirl around on social media platforms. There is not enough evidence to say a coup has taken place. At the same time, no mainstream international media outlet has been able to conclusively deny the reports either.
The rumors broke at a time when President Xi Jinping appeared to be at the zenith of his powers. Xi was expected to amass greater powers at the China Communist Party's mega conference, which is set to take place in mid-October.
China CPC Congress is Weeks Away
For weeks, speculations in China pointed towards the possibility of Xi being anointed as the Chairman of the people's republic, a position which was held only by Mao Zedong. Then comes the rumors of a coup. As per the grapevine, Xi has been ousted, is being held under house arrest and a prominent leader of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has taken over.
But nothing has been confirmed. Regular, official news flow from China appears normal. On Sunday, China's official news agency Xinhua reported that all delegates to the upcoming 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), have been elected.
"Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the delegates were elected in accordance with the Party Constitution, the CPC Central Committee's requirements, adopting methods required by the CPC Central Committee, the statement said," the report says.
Is a Coup Plausible?
Until quite recently, a coup in China was the remotest possibility. In March 2018, China approved constitutional changes that effectively allowed Xi to remain in power for life. In a landmark move, the National People's Congress approved a resolution that sought to remove the two-term limit on the presidency, which was in place since the 1990s. While 2,964 delegates to the annual Congress supported the move, only two voted against it, suggesting how invasive and complete the popularity of Xi has been.
Xi then went on to amass more power and acquire a brighter halo around him, so much so that he was on the cusp of being elevated to the status of Chairman Mao.
China also recently adopted what it calls the Xi School of thought, bestowing on the president the kind of adulation received by Mao Zedong, the republic's founder. The 'Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era' is to be taught in schools and universities across the country.
Is a fall from such a height possible? No one knows for sure if the current round of rumor is the creation of anti-Xi forces scattered around the world. There were speculations in May this year about the possibility of Xi stepping down.
According to the Washington Times, the rumor was traced to a Chinese-language YouTube video made by a Canada-based blogger. The blogger, who called themselves 'Lao Deng' said the president could step down after the Covid-19 lockdowns in Shanghai and other large cities backfired.
Though the video became viral China's censors clamped down on it.
The Times further reported: "The blogger, citing what he said was a senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) security source, said a "coup" was launched against Mr. Xi at the meeting of senior party leaders in Beijing. According to blog, Mr. Xi was forced to step aside but will stay in place until a major party meeting later this year."
Absolute power often attracts absolute backlash. The current round of rumors started when Xi was in Samarkhand, attending the Shanghai Cooperation Summit along with other world leaders. While it is quite unbelievable, it should also be noted that it comes just weeks ahead of the crucial CPC meeting, which is expected to shower more powers on Xi.
If the speculations are true, Xi will be unstoppable if he is anointed as the Chairman. So if the forces against one man's absolute powers were to unite, this was the time for it. If the Chinese dissidents had to act, it had to be now.